By Cole Deutschendorf
In community college sports, there is typically a relatively equal mix between local athletes and athletes from around the country.
For example, take the Hutchinson Community College baseball team. Out of the 40 players on HutchCC’s roster, 27 are from out of state and 13 have hometowns in Kansas. Ryan Henderson is one of those 13 homegrown players.
Henderson, a freshman, grew up in the Hutchinson area for the entirety of his life, starting at Nickerson in elementary school before transitioning to Buhler for his high school years. His proximity to HutchCC allowed coach Ryan Schmidt to pursue him for the program throughout Henderson’s career.
“I think our previous relationship helped out in the recruiting process. I’ve known Ryan for a long time, I’ve known his family for a long time,” Schmidt said. “He has had a distinct interest in our program from the beginning, and he wanted to play for us from day one.”
For many athletes at community colleges, it can take time to get used to the new setting, as Hutchinson is vastly different from much of the United States. That can mean getting used to the spasmodic weather or the seemingly endless spaces of wheat fields.
This was not the case for Henderson, who has been around HutchCC baseball throughout his life.
“Being so close to Hutch, I kind of knew what they were all about. I was able to watch a lot of games, so I knew what I was coming into,” Henderson said.
Schmidt said he loves to see home grown talent succeeding, whether that is at HutchCC or elsewhere.
“There are some players from our community that have gone elsewhere and had tremendous success. Adam Schrag (Buhler) went to Barton and did a tremendous job. I was just as proud of (Schrag) going over there and having success, and I love those relationships that are built around the community,” Schmidt said.
Henderson has had a great year at the plate for the Blue Dragons, hitting .327 with six home runs and 29 runs batted in in only 28 games. He attributes some of that success to his experiences at Buhler.
“We always had time to go do stuff ourselves, like going to hit by myself in our new facility,” Henderson said. “You take pride in being able to work (in high school), and that has definitely helped me in college too.”
Schmidt pointed out the impact and importance of having local talent on the team, telling a story from one of his kids’ baseball practices.
“It was other kids on the team, and they said ‘I saw Ryan Henderson hit a walk-off home run, he is probably going to go to the MLB.’ And that’s really cool, because in nine years, when that kid is 18, he’s going to have grown up watching Ryan Henderson and other local kids playing in my program chasing down their dreams,” Schmidt said. “I try to coach our kids all the time, to let them know that they have eyes on them all the time, and that they’re going to have more of an impact on the community than they truly see.”