This has been a memorable week for Ryan Henry.
On Monday, the Carson High School senior took a flight north to visit Western Oregon University. On Tuesday, he threw bullpen in front of the Western Oregon coaching staff in Monmouth. Then, when he returned home on Friday, he received a letter-of-intent by FAX. He marched through Carson High's graduation exercises Saturday and then he signed the letter in the afternoon in front of family and friends in his backyard at home.
Oh, and he had time to go out and pitch a perfect ninth inning for the Carson Cardinals club in its 7-1 victory on Friday evening.
"It takes a lot of pressure off me knowing that I'm committed," Henry said. "It means I don't have any pressure on me this summer. I can just go out and have fun playing with the Cardinals."
Henry, a three-year varsity veteran at Carson, finished his senior season with a 4-1 record, one save and a 3.72 ERA in 47 innings. He earned second-team all-league recognition in both baseball and basketball for the Senators.
His primary focus now is strictly school and baseball -- in that order. His scholarship is for academics -- he carried a cumulative 3.9 grade point average through four years of high school -- plus he received a combined $1,000 from the NIAA Northern Nevada Top Student-Athlete award and from Carson High's Merk Human Scholarship (which he shared with classmates Neil Holmes and Owen Brolsma).
"The academic part, I'm really serious about," said Henry, who plans to major in communications with a minor in legal studies. "My education and everything, I'm really excited to be able to go to a four-year school."
Interestingly enough, Henry expected he was headed to a community college in California until about six weeks ago. He only began thinking seriously about Western Oregon after the Senators returned from Hawaii during their Easter break.
"Everything just sort of fell into place," Henry said. "I was really happy things worked out with Western Oregon. They're losing a bunch of their pitching over the next two years, so it really seemed like a good opportunity for me."
Coach Terry Baumgartner guided Western Oregon to a 40-15 record, league championship and a berth in the NCAA Division II regionals this season. The Wolves were 35-17 and league champs in 2002, their first season in Division II. And in 2001, they finished third at the NAIA World Series.
"They went to regional playoffs and at one point were ranked 13th in the nation in Division II," Henry said. "They seem to be getting better and better each year."
Henry is looking forward to the change to Monmouth, located about 10 minutes from the state capital of Salem, about an hour from Portland, and about 20 minutes from Corvallis.
"It's more of small town atmosphere than I'm used to. It's more of a rural community, but the people are really friendly, and they love their baseball. I really like the area and how green it is, and being so close to sea level seems to add a little extra break to my curve ball."
Pitching in northern Nevada can be hazardous with the thin air of altitude, not to mention strong wind blowing out in small parks such as Galena, McQueen or Reed.
"That was one of the things he (Baumgartner) really emphasized was that it's a pitcher's ball park," Henry said. "He was telling me you really have to slam the ball to get it out of there. Even they don't hit very many home runs. They rely more on stealing and bunting, more of a short game. I think it's a little different style of baseball than we're used to seeing here in northern Nevada."
At the same time, the 6-foot-1, 170-pound right-hander realizes playing college baseball is no easy chore.
"It's going to be a different world," he said. "It's back to being on the low end of the totem pole now, but I think it's exciting to have to show what you have and prove yourself in front of guys who don't know you. I'm definitely going to have to turn it up a notch."
Carson seniors Henry, Brolsma, Holmes and Jon Teeter all played baseball together going back to their Little League days.
"I've had some good times and great memories of playing in Carson City and growing up here my whole life," Henry said. "It's kind of strange for it all to be coming to an end, but it's an exciting change. It'll be tough, I'll miss the guys, but I guess it's life and part of moving on."