Gunnar Henderson Not afraid to make predictions. Take his big league call-up, for example. Before the 2022 season, before he played a game at Triple-A, he told his girlfriend that he would be in the majors that year. orioles He was promoted on 31 August.
“I went into training that offseason with just that mindset, and really went into it expecting to be in the big leagues by the end of the year,” Henderson told me on Wednesday’s episode. “Flippin’ Bats.” “And look, I was able to get it done and literally put my head down and went to work that year.”
Ask him who will be the 2023 American League Rookie of the Year, and he won’t hesitate to answer: “Gunnar Henderson.”
It’s all part of the attitude he developed at a young age while growing up in Selma, Alabama. The Hendersons moved into a new house when Gunnar was in preschool, and their father, Alan, built a baseball field on the property. Henderson practiced every day on the field, which measured 260 feet down the line and 300 feet in center.
Henderson said, “I felt like I had an intrinsic motivation from a very young age and then was kind of vocal about wanting to be a major league baseball player from that point on and always remember it.”
That determination has already brought Henderson considerable success. At just 22 years old, Henderson is one of the catalysts for the Orioles team with the best record in the American League. In his first full season in the majors he is hitting .249 with a .815 OPS plus 21 homers and 61 RBI, making him the betting favorite to win American League Rookie of the Year.
However, the road to reach there is not an easy one. After a decent stint in his 2022 cameo (.259/.348/.440 slash line with four homers in 34 games), Henderson had a brutal start to his 2023 campaign, hitting below Mendoza’s line in the first two months .
Surprisingly, this was not a new experience for Henderson, who was selected by the Orioles in the second round of the 2019 draft out of high school. When he made his High-A debut in 2021, he went through a similar slump.
“The first two weeks I went to High-A, I went 0 for 31,” Henderson said. “The experience I went through there, I felt like I was trying to change something every day, just trying to feel good, like having BP or cage injuries and just trying to find something that , I think, give me a little bit of confidence ‘It’s here, now try it in the game.’
“It felt like I was just going down a rabbit hole and moving even further away from the end goal.”
That fall taught Henderson how to handle struggles at the plate, helping him get out after getting stuck in the same hole he had nearly six times at bat.
Henderson said, “I felt like the struggles I went through in High-A helped limit that because whenever you go through a certain thing you want to change, you feel like you have success.” Something has to change to get it.” “Whenever I was going through it, there were some people around me who were hitting up the coaches and the whole team a lot, helping me out and just giving me great insight into what they were going through. went through and how they coped with it.”
Nevertheless, Henderson remarked that the recession was “one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with.” It didn’t help that he would “sit there, watch the scoreboard every night and [see I’m batting] About a buck-40.”
But he reminded himself to stick to his process.
Henderson said, “You have to hold onto something and whatever makes you who you are, I thought that’s what you have to do.”
There is a bit of superstition involved as well. Henderson was easily recognized by baseball fans because of his long hair. However it went away last June when the Orioles were in Milwaukee for a three game series against Brewers,
Henderson said of his trip to the Milwaukee barbershop, “I was just trying to get the edges a little tighter because I really don’t like it when it sticks out too far out of my hat.” “As soon as we got there, it was like a pair of scissors went straight backwards. And I said ‘Okay, here we go.’
“He went straight over and I said, ‘Oh no. We’re already there. So, yeah, we’ll have to cut it.'”
As Henderson put it, he “started hitting really well after that.” He has hit .280 with a .886 OPS with 15 homers and 46 RBI in 60 games since June 8.
That haircut also marked the beginning of a boom for this Orioles group. They’ve gone 41-23 since June 8, leading from rays to clinch the AL East lead and top spot in the American League.
Henderson is living up to his billing as the top prospect in baseball entering the season as he is well on his way to becoming the Orioles’ best shortstop since Cal Ripken Jr. The newbie actually shares some similarities with Iron Man. They both have large frames, with Henderson standing at 6-foot-3 and Ripken at 6-foot-4.
Henderson recently had the opportunity to meet Ripken for the first time when the Hall of Famer was at Camden Yards for the 40th anniversary celebration of the Orioles’ 1983 World Series team.
Henderson said, “I got to talk to him and have a little chat with him.” “And he’s just saying he’s glad to see me at shortstop because he’s a tall shortstop and I am too. So, he said he liked my actions out there and he’s getting better at it, and he really likes me.” Enjoys looking out there.”
However, there is some question as to whether Henderson will still be at shortstop in the near future. Jackson Holiday1 overall pick in the 2022 MLB draft, is quickly making his way up the minor-league ranks as many evaluators rank him as the best prospect in baseball and project him to join the majors by next season. We do.
Holliday’s call-up will force the Orioles to make a difficult decision at shortstop, a position Henderson is expected to remain.
Henderson said, “I was selected as shortstop and that’s what I’ve played my whole life.” “So, that’s what I love to play. And yeah, just continue to be out there and show off your athleticism out there.”
Holiday is one of several top prospects expected to make it to the big leagues for the Orioles, who already have one of baseball’s best young players. Henderson enjoys the team they are in now and envisions a strong future for the group. As I’ve said before, I believe there is potential for a potential dynasty in Baltimore.
“I’d like to think so,” Henderson said. “I’ve seen everyone play except the newly drafted players. It looks like a great mix for a long championship run for many years to come.”
Well then, what about 2023? Can these budding Orioles win the World Series this October?
“I’m pretty sure we can.”
ben verlander MLB analyst for Fox Sports and host of “flippin batpodcast. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University before joining his brother Justin in Detroit for the Tigers’ 14th round pick in 2013. He spent five years in the Tigers organization. Twitter follow him on @benverlander,
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