Henry rocking and rolling for WNCC
Appeal Sports Writer
There is no truth to the rumor that Western Nevada Community College center fielder Aaron Henry has found the cure for male pattern baldness, but as a lead guitarist for local band Season to Fall, the 20-year-old Henry plays the kind of aggressive riffs that make an old headbanger at least feel like his long hair is growing back.
“It’s hardcore metal – real heavy stuff,” said Henry, whose musical tastes range from old ’80s rock to newer bands such as As I Lay Dying. “I write a lot of music, do a little backup vocals. I always want to play guitar no matter what I do.”
Henry, now a sophomore at WNCC, has been a quick study at what he calls his second passion in life and didn’t begin playing the guitar until he was a sophomore at Carson High School, where he played drums, the piano – and baseball.
Forget “Detroit Rock City,” Season to Fall was one of the opening bands last weekend in Nevada City, Calif., and has had its songs – including “Another Pair of Eyes:” – played on local rock station FM 104.5. “The Dot,” as the station is know, played the tune during its “Pure Rock Backyard” show, which highlights homegrown talent.
As with heavy metal music in the ’80s, there are some that could draw the wrong message from the names of Season to Fall’s songs, such as “In the Ground She Lays.”
Henry offered a clarification for those who are quick to draw any misleading conclusions.
“It’s a metaphor,” he said. “It’s about killing the memory of an old girlfriend. I was pretty excited to hear it on there (104.5).”
WNCC shortstop Jerahmie Libke said it’s difficult to reconcile the juxtaposition of the quiet, quick-to-smile Henry with his heavy-sounding rock counterpart.
“I heard the band on CD and his band is all about screaming,” Libke said. “I don’t see that in him, talking to him. That’s a totally different side to him.”
When he’s not entertaining rivet-heads with his pulse-pounding guitar riffs or studying business and music at WNCC (“I want to give myself more options,” he said), Henry is busy keeping opposing pitchers riveted on his every move.
Once timed in the 60-yard dash in 6.4 seconds, Henry has a singular attribute on the baseball field: “He’s the fastest person I’ve ever played with,” Wildcats first baseman Tom Miller said of Henry. “With me being slow, I wish he’d give me a couple of steps. He’s fast as lightning. Aaron Henry…God blessed him with speed.”
Libke played against Henry and the Senators when he was a member of the Bishop Gorman Gaels, in Las Vegas, and said Henry, who has a team-leading 17 steals in 20 attempts, is one of the team’s biggest all-round difference makers.
“He’s one of the best defensive players in the outfield,” Libke said. “He’s really fast. He gets to a lot of balls. He likes to lay it out. He makes some good catches like that. He can beat it out on the infield (hits) and get doubles. He can steal bases. He’s a good guy to have.”
WNCC coach D.J. Whittemore said Henry, who legged out a Pat Grennan drive to right for a game-winning run against Salt Lake Community College on March 18 at Ron McNutt Field, is one of the reasons the 27-15 Wildcats are challenging for the lead in the Scenic West Athletic Conference (they have a 21-9 conference record).
“He’s been a pleasant surprise offensively,” Whittemore said. “I knew he’d be able to anchor the outfield, centerfield. He’s also our best baserunner. We didn’t know what to expect from him offensively. He’s definitely surpassed our expectations. He’s driving runners in. He’s keeping rallies going and getting rallies started.”
Going into Friday’s double header against Colorado Northwestern Community College, in Rangley, Colo., Henry was carrying a .284 batting average (third on the team) and was tied for second with second baseman/leadoff hitter Kyle Bondurant with 14 runs scored.
Henry credited WNCC hitting coach Aaron Demosthenes for helping him make adjustments at the plate.
“(Demosthenes) has helped me tremendously this year,” said Henry, who bats right-handed. “I never used to hit the ball (to the opposite field). I was always a pull hitter. Now most of my hits are up the middle or to opposite field. It’s pretty even. He made all the difference in the world.”
Henry also has had 41 putouts from center field, with only one error and a .976 fielding percentage.
“Aaron Henry is an awesome baseball player,” Miller said. “He’s super-fast and a great outfielder. He’s a guy you want at the top of your lineup. He’s a threat on the bases. He’s had a lot of big hits for us. He’s one of the guys, offensively, who’s holding the team together.”
It wouldn’t be unfair to say that Henry was born and bred to be a baseball player. His father, Carl, was a three-time letterman as a pitcher for the University of Nevada (1976-78) before blowing out his arm.
Henry said it’s not so coincidental that his name is “Henry, Aaron” on lineup cards, where a player’s last name is written first.
“It was kind of intentional,” Henry said. “(Carl) liked the name Aaron and he remembered (all-time home run record holder) Henry Aaron. My dad was definitely a big baseball guy.”
So it should come as no surprise that Carl and Leonora Henry’s two boys, 21-year-old Ryan and Aaron, grew up to be big baseball guys as well. Both played for Carson and Ryan is now a junior (with sophomore eligibility) for Oregon Institute of Technology.
“I’ve been playing since I was 2 – ever since I could pick up a ball,” said Aaron, a 2004 CHS graduate.
Henry said he was getting interest from Nevada coach Gary Powers when, as a senior, he broke his ankle, ending a stellar season in which he was batting .424 through 15 games, with 33 runs scored and 21 stolen bases.
Henry, who also had interest from Sacramento State and Pacific, played at Lassen Community College in his freshman season, where he said he was batting .480 before developing mononucleosis and subsequently “didn’t do well.”
But misfortune at Lassen turned out to be good fortune for WNCC.
“I originally recruited Henry for Feather River (Community College) two years ago,” Whittemore said. “He was someone I saw play the first weekend of his senior year and knew he’d be a good college baseball player.”
Whittemore said a college recruiter saw Henry play at Lassen and it wasn’t long before Whittemore turned up at B’Sghetti’s where Leonora worked.
“I talked to his mom before anybody,” Whittemore said. “She said he might have an interest in coming back and playing in his hometown. He and his brother had an impromptu workout over at Wooster (High School). At the time I didn’t have a scholarship and he was non-committal. In July I offered him a scholarship and he accepted.”
TAKING IT HOME
As with most coaches, Whittemore isn’t the type to let well enough be and wants Henry to continue to pick it up in practice.
“Like most 20-year-old kids, on occasion he can be lackadaisical,” Whittemore said. “He was an above average practice player. We wanted him to be a great practice player. Over the year he’s steadily improved his play in practice. The guys on the team call him a ‘gamer.’ We wanted him to match that with his practice habits. He’s done that.”
Miller explained what being a gamer means to a player.
“Every baseball player wants to be a gamer,” Miller said. “A gamer is the kind of guy you want on a team who’s willing to take a ball off the face if it wins the game for you. It’s a guy you want up (at bat) in key situations in a game.”
According to Whittemore, that would be Henry, whom he said has attracted interest from Nevada, Southern Utah and UC Santa Barbara. But for now Henry’s more than happy to be back in familiar territory.
“It’s huge coming back and playing here,” Henry said. “While I’m disappointed (WNCC’s John L. Harvey Field) isn’t completed yet, it’s nice playing on my old stomping grounds at CHS at home in center field (his position in high school).”
In addition to appearing in local rock shows, Henry said he will enjoy playing for his Carson baseball audience the remainder of the year.
“He’s going to continue to hit six or seven (in the lineup) for us,” Whittemore said. “He’s going to keep doing what he’s been doing for us and that’s drive in runs. And he’s going to act as second leadoff hitter for us.”
And chances are Henry will continue being an outwardly unassuming guy – for the most part.
“I’m a quiet guy until it’s a game situation or a concert,” Henry said. “They bring out the adrenaline. Some days in practice my ankle bothers me and it doesn’t look like I work as hard, or I don’t look 100 percent. In games, for some reason, I forget about the injury and I’m a whole different person.”
And the kind of player – baseball and guitar – who enjoys providing his audience with some hair-raising experiences as well.