Monday, May 15, 2017

Hendu The Great Speaks, 150 Years Ago Today, Biscuit Notes

Recently I wrote about Brian Henderson, the Biscuits all time leader in game appearances and his array of Biscuits hardware.

Brian Henderson pitched for both championship Skitz teams and along the way earned the title Hendu The Great.

Some of the top names in Biscuits history - James Shields, David Price, Wade Davis and many others toed the pitchers plate for Montgomery as Hendersons teammate but none took the ball as often as the Texas lefty.

Chosen in the 7th round of the 2003 draft by the then-Devil Rays, Hendu the Great played in 198 games over five seasons, winning 15 games while losing just 8 and posting a spry 3.10 ERA to provide excellent relief pitching for Montgomery from 2004-2008.

In 2007 Henderson was in 59 games, tying him for Most Appearances in a single season, as well as being the All Time Career Appearances leader for the Biscuits. Brian is also fifth in Career Win-Loss Percentage at .682.

Henderson appeared in some of the Biscuits biggest games, getting the final outs for the Biscuits first Championship in 2006 and was the winning pitcher in the deciding game of the 2007 Championship.

Brian was kind enough to send a couple pics of his championship rings and agreed to answer a few questions for us!

Q1. You came to the Biscuits in July of their first season in Montgomery. The team was pretty bad and needed a lot of help - what were your thoughts about coming to Montgomery and how did the city match up to your expectations?

Hendu: I was excited to come to a brand new ballpark in a new city and get a promotion to the double A level.  I didn't know much about Montgomery except it was the capital city. 

I remember getting picked up by Mike Prochaska during the July 4th night game. So driving up to the stadium, I saw the lights, then heard the crowd. 
 Where I came from, I think there was like 100 people in the stands per night. Montgomery was more like 1,000 to 5,000 people a night that first year.  The stadium was so big and right downtown.  There was a good turnout during that whole homestand around July 4th.  I had a great first impression of Montgomery and my experience with the Biscuits.

 Q2. The Biscuits won a pair of titles while you were with the team and I know you have the rings to show for it! Was there a fave moment during those championship seasons, a high point among the high points?
 Hendu: It would have to be getting to pitch the 9th inning in 2006 to get our first championship at home.  I still can hear my walk out song from that night and remember every pitch.

I had two K's and the last out was an easy groundball to Evan Longoria.  I think the final score was 12-4 (it was indeed). It was my first championship as a professional and we celebrated with champagne and beer in the clubhouse.

Hendu (4th hat from left) & Biscuits celebrate after their first championship
 Lots of people taking pictures, seeing the trophy and banner.  Celebrating with the fans. The fans really wanted that first one.  And to get it in just the franchise's third year.

I just remember having so much fun during the whole year.  The team really came together after a four or five game sweep of Jacksonville on the road.

We were watching the movie 'Hustle and Flow" to get in the right mindset on the way there.  We played it again and sang along with Terrence Howard on the way back.  

2006 Champions
Q3. You were a huge part of the bullpen for the Biscuits first title, pitching in nearly a third of the teams games with five saves and a sparkling 2.34 era. 
How did you celebrate winning the Biscuits first championship in 2006?

Hendu: I just remember throwing my glove in the air and getting in the dog pile.  Being on the field was amazing, seeing the faces of teammates and coaches.  We took the party into the clubhouse.  I have some great pictures from that night.

2007 Champs

Q4. The team wins it all again in '07 and again you had an important role, pitching in nearly sixty games, winning six and posting a great 2.97 era.  

Was the 2007 celebration any different than the previous year? How was that bus ride back from Huntsville?

Hendu: The 2007 celebration was different since it was on the road in Huntsville.  That series both teams were more evenly matched.

 I pitched in the top of the 8th inning in the last game and got credit for the win when we pulled ahead in the bottom of the 8th.  Reid Briganc turned a double play to seal it and I was in the dugout on the first base side, running out to get in the dog pile.

Proud papa with Hendu the Great
My dad was there, and I remember taking off my jersey and giving it to him to keep.  We celebrated a little in Huntsville's cramped clubhouse but we ran out of booze pretty quick.  I took some beers to share with my dad in the stands while the bus was getting packed up to go back to Montgomery.  That was pretty neat, to win it and share the moment with him.

The team bus got a police escort as soon as we hit Prattville.  There were some fans in Montgomery that stayed up and greeted us at Riverwalk stadium.  I think it was like 2 am (Dr.M: I could not miss that and was among those who came to celebrate!).  We celebrated a little more and then everyone hit the road, back home to wherever they were from.
Q5. Do you remember the first major league game you attended? Who were your fave players when you were growing up, who impressed you?

Hendu: My first game was in the Astrodome, probably in the 80s.  I remember watching Nolan Ryan, Tony Eusebio, Jeff Bagwell, and then the Astros got Randy Johnson for like a month, and I got to see him pitch against Kevin Brown in the playoffs when he was with the Padres.  I was impressed with the Braves pitching staff for sure in the 90s, and I always liked Terry Mulholland and Billy Wagner.  
I got to be a foul ball kid in the bullpen during one of the Astros home games and stood next to Billy Wagner.  I think I was in the 8th grade and almost was as tall as he was.  I saw Daryl Kile's no hitter with my little league team in the Astrodome.  I have my ticket from that game.
Q6. The minor leagues are known for their funky promotions and weird in-game activities, certainly Montgomery is no exception. What was the strangest on-field event you witnessed, home/road or anywhere, planned or unplanned?

Hendu: The Charleston River Dogs, my first professional team, had the silent night, the bring your dog night, and the waterpark day.  Those were pretty tame compared to the fans coming onto the field in Caracas, Venezuela, running from the riot police with rubber swords and dogs.  They trotted the police out around the warning track during the 8th inning on the weekend games but it didn't prevent some people.  
One time there was a fight in the stands that broke out and the first baseman was watching it instead of the game.  He got caught out of position on a ball in play.  

Any who, the strangest one at Riverwalk stadium was also one of the coolest.  The Maxwell Air force base sent over a fighter jet for a flyover.  It was a regular national anthem and we had no warning.  You couldn't hear anything coming.  All of a sudden it shows up right above the roof, turns to point straight up above the mound, turns on the afterburner and goes straight up into the sky and disappears in about 30 seconds.
August of 2007 Pregame, Henderson in #17
Opening Day 2017, Brian Hendersons choice!
Q7. The sale of the Biscuits is now finalized. Based on your past experience with Montgomery, what advice would you offer the new owners?

Hendu: More flyovers!  

Q8.  Folks are gonna ask, what are you up to these days, whats keeping you busy?

Hendu: Holding it down in Austin, Texas!

Q9. Is there anyone you want to give a shout out to, or anything you want to say on any topic, baseball or otherwise?

Hendu: My wife Kristina @theturquoisechannel on Instagram!  Check it out!

Also, a shout out to .training on Instagram. It's where I teach yoga and work out. Sand bag get ups and atlas stone cleans and triangle poses!

Many thanks to Brian Henderson for answering baseball questions for us!

On researching Hendu the Great I learned he is much more than simply the Biscuits greatest reliever - decorated at the University of Houston for his academics, Hendu was an honor roll student but made the choice to give up deep maths to focus on his athletics.

Since his departure from baseball he has not just sat around drinking beers. He has nurtured his spiritual growth with yoga as well as becoming an expert hand with vegetarian and vegan cooking. He teaches yoga and Natural and Ayurvedic cooking classes, sometimes leading retreats to educate others on inner development.

Yoel Espinal

Reliever Yoel "Enigma" Espinal was sent to Durham following the promotion of Stanek to the big leagues. Espinal embodies the old adage "He can throw a grape through a battleship, but sometimes he can't hit the battleship."

Riley Unroe was activated from the DL on the 12th, just in time to appear in a game two days earlier!

Goetzman and Justin Williams are both on the disabled list with sore hamstrings, giving Joe McCarthy a chance to play some outfield. Grant Kay handles first base when Mojo is in left field.

I had my first look at pitcher Tyler Brashears in the recent homestand and I felt his delivery was very reminiscent of Tim Lincecum. Dropping the ball behind his right hip as he takes a loooong stride, Brashears relies on low 90's heat and good location to spot his pitches for strikes.

Pitching help may be on the horizon, though only twenty years old, Stone Crabs starter Genesis Cabrera has been great in eight starts. He has allowed just 27 hits in 40 innings.


MAY 15 1867 
A.T. Pearsall
The Memphis Appeal reports that the “Pelham” Base Ball Club was organized at Montgomery “last Thursday.” It is one of the first baseball teams in Alabama.

Andrew Pearsall is the captain and first baseman, bringing the game of base ball to central Alabama for the first time, exactly 150 years ago today.

MAY 15 1976 
Montgomery pitcher Steve Trella throws a No Hitter for Rebels, one of two no-no's thrown by Montgomery that season. Trella beats Jacksonville 1-0 in seven innings at Paterson Field in one of 31 scheduled double headers!

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