Jim Henderson, #29, with the Milwaukee Brewers returned to Athens on Friday. Henderson came to Tennessee Wesleyan as a transfer in the fall of 2002 as an outfielder. That spring he began pitching for the Bulldogs and found himself drafted in the 26th Round by the Montreal Expos. Henderson made the trek back to the Tennessee Wesleyan Campus Friday as only the third Bulldog to make it to the Big Leagues.
After a meet and greet session with the community, Henderson was honored at a Hall of Fame Induction and Jersey Retirement Ceremony. Darrell Patterson, formerly of WTVC Channel 9, served as the Master of Ceremonies for the event. After guest speakers, Wayne Norfleet and Ashley Lawson, both former baseball coaches at Tennessee Wesleyan, Henderson shared with the crowd of approximately 250, his story from coming to Tennessee Wesleyan to getting the call to the big leagues.
During his time at Tennessee Wesleyan, in 2003, he was selected as an AAC First Team All-Conference Member and named AAC Player of the Year. He helped guide his team to a 2003 regular season AAC Conference Championship and Region XII Runner up. Henderson helped the Bulldogs to post a 41-10 record, while being selected as an NAIA Honorable Mention All-American. Henderson, unbeaten against conference foes, posted a 10-1 record with a 2.35 earned run average and 96 strikeouts and issued only 14 walks. At the plate, Henderson hit for .383 average, leading the team in home runs with 13 and had 11 doubles.
In June 2003, he was drafted in the 26th round by the Montreal Expos. After a few seasons, Henderson was signed by the Chicago Cubs and, while pitching for the Knoxville Smokies, was on the verge of making the jump to the big leagues when arm and back problems requiring major surgery sidetracked the move. From that point on, Henderson took it upon himself to call around, looking for another chance.
The Brewers made an offer, but said the 26-year-old would have to start all over again at the bottom of the minor league ranks. Henderson's up and down journey through the minor leagues continued, but, finally healthy again, his velocity and control improved. Henderson was pitching for the Nashville Sound in 2012 when the call came. A team meeting was called after one game and the manager said there were two topics to be discussed. Henderson explained to the crowd how he was told by the manager in front of the whole team that he was moving up to the big leagues.
In 2012, Jim made his Major League debut with the Milwaukee Brewers becoming the 3rd former TWC Bulldog to appear in a major league game. Currently, he serves as the Brewers closer and in his 97 appearances with the Brewers has compiled 6 wins, 31 saves, 120 strike outs, an ERA of 2.98 and a WHIP of 1.18. He has been honored by being selected as a 2009 All Star in the Midwest League, 2012 All Star in the Pacific Coast League, and was a member of the 2012 MILB.com Milwaukee organization All Star. Jim is also a member of the Canadian National Baseball team participating in the World Baseball Classic and Pan American Games. In 2011, Jim was a member of team Canada's first gold medal team in the Pan Am games.
Coach Billy Berry summed it up best stating, "I admire you for overcoming the adversities you have faced and staying true to who you are. You are a great ambassador for Tennessee Wesleyan College."
"It was great having Jim back on campus to honor his achievement of reaching the Major Leagues," said Donny Mayfield, TWC director of athletics. "To hear his story of perseverance through ten years of minor league baseball was inspirational, and I hope that all who were in attendance can use that message to motivate them to never give up on their dreams."
Pictures from the nights events are located at www.twcbulldogs.com under the Photo Gallery Tab.