Showcase : : Story
Monday, August 30, 2010

Missouri's Henson gets noticed at Perfect Game Midwest Underclass

Jeff Dahn        

High school junior Jake Henson and his family made the five-hour drive from their home in St. Peters, Mo., to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Aug. 27 with only one purpose in mind. They were ready to expose Jake's considerable baseball talents to the college coaches, scouts and other baseball purists in attendance at the Perfect Game USA Midwest Underclass Showcase staged Aug. 28-29.

Henson, a 6-foot, 195-pound catcher and outfielder who turned 17 on Aug. 4, didn't disappoint himself or those in attendance, particularly with his play at catcher. He showed a lot of natural ability behind the plate, with a strong arm and a sound understanding of how to play the position.

This is what it's all about for Henson and another 140 or so players who took part in the Perfect Game Midwest Top Prospect and Midwest Underclass showcases at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium and Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids. It's about getting noticed and getting your name out there at the national level.

"That's what I'm really looking for, showing everybody what I can do," Henson said.

A Perfect Game scout called Henson "an outstanding defensive catcher" and he certainly put that talent on display over the weekend when he recorded the top Underclass "pop time" of 1.94 seconds. Of the 26 catchers participating in the two Perfect Game Midwest showcases, only two - Top Prospects Jack Goihl and Justin Gonzalez - had faster pop times during the catching drills.

Henson also ranked first in arm speed among all the catchers in attendence with a top throw of 80 mph.

Henson, a solid student with a 3.5 GPA, seems pretty right-on when assessing his abilities behind the plate.

"I think I really blend well with the pitcher, like I really know what's going on," he said. "I think me and him - I always try to make sure we're both on the same page. Me and (the pitcher) and the fielders. I just like to be on the same page with everybody."

When Henson isn't catching he plays the outfield and has showed good arm strength from out there as well. He enjoyed a good showcase at the plate and seemed to have a propensity for hitting doubles, but he said his hitting is still very much a work in progress.

"I think I just need to get smarter with the game," he said. "I need to realize what's going on in that situation and putting everything toward the game."

The 2010 Midwest Underclass Showcase was the first Perfect Game event Henson attended, and he came away impressed.

"I like the way everything's going and I like the way they run everything, playing all these games and stuff," he said. "It gives me a chance to show a lot of the coaches a lot of things I couldn't show (outside of game conditions).

"I've been pleased with what I've done behind the plate, but batting and everything, I can do a lot better. I'm not doing it right now."

Henson made that comment before ripping a pair of doubles in his Maroon team's final five-inning game Sunday afternoon. That performance at the plate and his continued great work behind it prompted this observation from a Perfect Game scout:

"(Henson) continued to stand out as he wrapped up a great showcase for him by going 2-2 with 2 doubles. He needs to be watched very closely."

After completing his spring season at Francis Howell Central High School in St. Peters - he was named second-team all-Gateway Athletic Conference South as a sophomore - Henson spent the summer playing with Missouri-based Team Mizuno Midwest's 17U Showcase team. He will continue to play well into the fall in tournaments as well as league play.

"We're traveling a lot," Henson said. "We're coming out here again next month, I think, and we're playing in a lot of big showcases and everything around the country."

It's all about exposure for the young and talented Henson, and with one Perfect Game showcase behind him, you can be sure there will be many more to come.

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