It’s difficult enough partaking in the College World Series tournament. Immediately going from that to batting leadoff for your first professional franchise is quite simply Herculean.
For CF Jeff Hendrix though, it’s an opportunity he couldn’t be more thankful and excited for.
“It’s been fun,” Hendrix said. “I think any time you take a step up in competition, there’s going to be some adjustments to make, and I think I’m finally starting to make them.”
As the Staten Island Yankees seeks to end their three year playoff drought, they’ll have the former Oregon State Beaver’s name penciled in at the top of their lineup on a regular basis. The Yankees currently own a half game lead in the McNamara Division, and have made their move for the title with Hendrix in the leadoff spot.
“We’re going to take it one game at a time,” Hendrix said. “You can’t get too caught up in the standings, the season’s a process. We’re looking forward to the last month, and if it’s with me in leadoff spot, I’m going to do what I can to lead the team to victory.”
Following the Beavers’ appearance in the CWS Tournament, a run that ended with a lost to Dallas Baptist in the Dallas Regionals, Hendrix was taken in the 4th Round of the 2015 MLB Draft by the Yankees. Unlike many of the Yankees’ other draft picks, Hendrix did not have the opportunity to hone his skills in Gulf Coast or Dominican Summer Leagues, nor did he spend any time with the Pulaski Yankees of the Appalachian League on the Rookie level. Instead, he was thrust immediately into Staten Island of the NY-Penn League, with Yankee Stadium a tantalizing 45 minutes away. Playing baseball in Corvallis prepared him for the road ahead very well.
“Coming back for my junior year was huge,” he said. “I not only got to develop more as a player, but it helped me mature more as a person. (Oregon State) was a big, big influence on me.
Though he struggled in the early going, Hendrix has been able to raise his batting average from .213 to .250 over the past two weeks. From July 23 to August 4, Hendrix tallied an 8 game hitting streak, during which he went 14-for-36 at the plate for .389 average.
“I think I was just trying to stay aggressive,” Hendrix said of the streak. “I definitely changed the pitches I was swinging at, so that really helped out.”
Not only has Hendrix been dazzling at the plate, he’s wowed fans and experts in the field as well. On a July 16 battle with the Brooklyn Cyclones, a game that was broadcast across the Tri-State area on SNY, Brooklyn OF Michael Bernal smacked a ball toward the gap in center with runner on first and no one out in bottom half of the 6th inning. Doing his best impression of Coney Island’s famous roller coasters, Hendrix sped off to his left and made a diving stop for the first out of the frame. The Odell Beckham Jr-esque catch allowed the Baby Bombers to keep a precarious 1-0 lead, and they would win the contest by the same result.
With the lead in the division only a half game over rival Brooklyn, Staten Island needs all of their guys to produce in the twilight portions of the regular season. As the Yankees’ trusted leadoff hitter, Hendrix is ready to do his part.
“(Batting leadoff) is something I’m really comfortable with,” Hendrix said. “It’s something I did a lot in college. It’s something I’m comfortable and confident in doing and I’m having a really good time with it.”
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