Henry Looks To Re-Establish Himself

Henry is happy to be back with Yankees

Drafted as the Yankees' first round pick back in 2005, C.J. Henry was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies as part of a package of prospects for Bobby Abreu in 2006. He hit just .184 in his first full season with the Phillies this past season before asking for, and being granted, his release. Now back with the Yankees he says he's looking to re-establish himself.

"It's a good deal, it's good to be back with the team that first drafted me," C.J. Henry said of re-signing with the Yankees. "I chose the Yankees because I was comfortable over there. I know everybody, know the system, know [Damon] Oppenheimer, know [Mark] Newman, and they know me.

"They know how I am and they were the ones who drafted me. They've seen me play and they know what I can do. It's a good fit, it's a good deal."

Hitting just .240 with a pair of home runs in his first full professional season with the Charleston Riverdogs back in 2006, his Yankee career seemingly ended after just 456 at-bats when he was traded to Philadelphia but he insists he never had any bad feelings about being dealt.

"Not anything towards the organization or anything like that," he admitted. "I didn't want to be traded because that's who I always wanted to play for, the Yankees. When I got drafted by them it was a dream come true.

"When I got traded I had to take it as a business and that's how it goes. That's what the Yankees do, they trade their prospects. There were no hard feelings or anything like that."

Just a career .245 hitter with 150 strikeouts in 150 games entering the 2007 season, the former Kansas high school basketball standout struck out 139 times in just 102 games with the low-A Lakewood BlueClaws this past season.

'It was just one of those crazy things where I went into Spring Training feeling the best I ever felt," he said of entering the 2007 season. "I had a good Spring Training and started off the season well, and then I couldn't even call it what happened. It was a disappointing season numbers-wise but towards the end of the season it turned out I needed contacts, glasses."

Hitting a career-worst .110 in the month of July with Lakewood, the addition of contacts allowed him to hit a career-best .333 in the month of August.

"I was supposed to get my eyes checked during the middle of the season and didn't wind up getting it done until the last month of the season. I ended up needing them [contacts] bad. They said my eyes were really out of focus. I had 20/60 vision and it was a complete night and day difference from me seeing the ball, being able to see the spin and rotation in the last month. I was relieved."

That little bit of late-season success came at the right time for Henry as he was teetering back and forth in his mind, pondering whether or not he made the correct decision coming out of high school to play baseball instead of pursuing a career in basketball.

"It's unlike me to not perform to the level I'm capable of and maybe it was some due to my mind wandering towards basketball when I started struggling," he revealed. "When things start going bad you go back to the things you were doing when you were successful and when that doesn't work, your mind starts to wander. That's what it was pretty much the whole year, flip-flopping in my mind between both sports."

That indecision about his future led him to ask for his release from the Phillies, and after it was granted, he strongly considered going back to the University of Kansas to play basketball.

"Yes basketball was an option," he admitted. "When I came home from the season I just kind of weighed my options out and waited about a month and a half to decide what I was going to do. I talked to my family, friends, a couple of coaches, just getting mixed opinions from people on what I should do.

"I knew I wanted to play baseball still. I didn't want my career to be over and I knew I wanted it to continue with the Yankees so I gave them a call. I reached out to them and they said they would like to have me back, that's how it happened."

Drafted as a first round pick, traded in his first full professional season, and struggling along the way, Henry has already dealt with more in the game than most 21-year olds have endured but he says there is something to learn from all of this.

"There's a lot, you learn a lot everyday," said the Oklahoma native. "I've always worked hard and nobody ever complained about my work ethic because I'm usually the first one there and the last one to leave. I guess patience is the biggest thing I've learned.

"Different things come to different people at different times. Like with A.J. [Austin Jackson] this year, he clicked this year, things went well for him. Things click for people at different times."

Friends back from the high school days when both Jackson and Henry knew each other from the pre-draft showcase circuit, they became even closer friends when they were both drafted by the Yankees as high school basketball stars making the transition to full-time professional baseball players.

Now rejoining the Yankees, Henry admits seeing his good friend Austin Jackson turn his career away the way he has in 2007 serves as an inspiration for him.

"I talk to him often," Henry said of Jackson. "It's motivation to see what he's done. I'm always trying to better myself and I'm trying to top his numbers and do the best that I can. It's not like a competition between me and him. I want to see him do well and I want to do well, but it's motivation to see what he has done."

Drafted as shortstop out of high school, he played some third base for the Phillies upon being traded and eventually settled into the outfield, a position the Yankees foresee him playing for them.

"I played most of the season in left field for the Phillies after coming off third [base]. I'm comfortable with the outfield, centerfield or a corner spot, it wouldn't matter," said the 21-year old. "If you can play centerfield well then you can play the corners. Center or left, it doesn't matter, I just want to be playing."

A two-sport star in high school who didn't focus on just playing baseball until he signed with the Yankees, Henry says is recommitted to resurrecting his baseball career and re-establishing himself in the game with his second tour of duty with the Yankees.

"Just to reestablish myself as a top prospect," he listed as his main goal. "I was a first rounder and didn't have the best numbers early in my career but I'm still only 21 years old."

"People want things right now. They expect big things from first round picks and they want to see results. Sometimes stuff doesn't come as easily. It comes fast for some and not others. I'm ready to get back into it."

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