In the end, it was still an honor and a dream come true for Chris Henderson.
But before that, it was more like a nightmare.
Henderson, a 2006 Cherokee graduate who recently completed a phenomenal junior season for George Mason, was finally selected in the 21st round (637 overall) of the 2009 major league first-year player draft. When the Dodgers called his name, the wait and frustration was replaced by sheer joy.
"I listened to the draft at home with my parents," Henderson said last night. "I thought I might be taken a little earlier, like in the first 10 rounds. But when my name was called it was just such an honor to be drafted. I can't wait to get out there and play."
This season was certainly a memorable one for the Marlton native. Henderson is one of three finalists for the Johnny Bench Award as the nation's top defensive catcher (winner will be announced July 2) and is one of 16 semifinalists for the Dick Howser Trophy, given to the nation's top player (three finalists will be announced Saturday, the winner on July 2).
For the year, Henderson hit .413 with 22 doubles, 14 home runs, 58 RBI and scored 70 runs. His 97 hits set a GMU season record. He was named the Colonial Athletic Association's co-player of the year and was the first player in school history to receive a first-team All-America honor (Louisville Slugger NCAA Division I All-America team).
Despite his play behind the plate, when the Dodgers called his name yesterday at 3:35 p.m., they wanted Henderson noted as a third baseman.
"The Dodgers had told me that they were interested in my bat more [than catching] and that they wanted to draft me as a position player," he said. "When they said third base, I was a little shocked, but I think the plan is to move me around a little bit."
Having grown up a Phillies fan, he admitted to hoping that the home team would call his name. But he is now a Dodger through and through.
"I really didn't know anything about the Dodgers until they started contacting me this past year," Henderson admitted. "It seems like they'll be a great fit for me and they are a great organization."
Henderson needs just two semesters to finish school. But the desire to turn pro might put finishing college on hold.
"We haven't even started to talk about a contract or anything like that," he said. "Right now I'd say I'm about 60-40 on turning pro. I can't wait to give it a shot. I can always go back and finish up college."
Seton Hall junior pitcher Sean Black, from Lenape, was taken by the Yankees in the seventh round (225 overall). Black, a 6-5 righthander, was selected by the Washington Nationals in the second round in 2006. During his three seasons at Seton Hall, Black was 10-12 with a 4.22 earned run average with 31 starts in 43 games.
Henderson's teammate at George Mason, pitcher Mike Modica, was taken in the 24th round (731 overall) by the Houston Astros. The Washington Township grad has been drafted twice previously, in the 45th round by the Phillies in high school in 2005 and in the 46th round, also by the Astros, last year. This season, Modica went 11-2 and held conference opponents to a .239 batting average. He is George Mason's all-time leader in starts and is second in strikeouts, wins and innings pitched.
Steve Bruno, who just graduated from Gloucester Catholic, was chosen by the Yankees with the 795th overall pick (26th round). The shortstop, who has committed to the University of Virginia, worked out for the Yankees recently. He was an all-city player at St. Joseph's Prep 2 years ago before transferring to Gloucester Catholic. *