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Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


Facebook - Grant Morris of the Nashua Telegraph


Nashua Silver Knights relief pitcher Jake Henderson scratches his face while sitting in the dug-out during Wednesday afternoon's game against the Seacoast Mavericks at Holman Stadium in Nashua.
Thursday, June 16, 2011

Knights reliever has it all in perspective

NASHUA – Jake Henderson was pulling into the driveway of his home in Beaumont, Texas, one early morning the first week of October. What he saw took the Nashua Silver Knights reliever completely by surprise.

“My roommate’s car was getting robbed,” he said. “I hopped out of the car and let’s just say I politely asked (the alleged robber) to leave and an altercation happened.”

The altercation resulted in a surprising stab wound in the abdomen that set Henderson’s health back three months, causing him to have to receive a red-shirt year at Lamar University.

Just moments after it happened, Henderson didn’t think he was seriously injured.

“I got the knife out of his hand and he ran,” he said. “I had no clue I got stabbed until about five minutes after. No, maybe a minute after. I picked up the knife and started walking to my house and I looked down and I saw blood squirting out. I said ‘Oh, God!’. I called my Mom, she started crying, and I drove myself to the hospital.”

Henderson was stabbed only once, doctors did exploratory surgery but no vital organs were pierced.

“Another millimeter, they said, it would have gotten my gall bladder,” he said.

Henderson, who had been going through some personal issues, says it might be the best thing that ever happened to him. Now the 6-foot-3, 200-pound right-hander says he appreciates baseball – and life – even more.

“Since that day, I’ve gotten my life back on track and started playing ball harder again,” he said.

Henderson worked with a trainer, got stronger and threw bullpens during the year at Lamar, and he prefers to work in relief here for the Silver Knights, which he has, but it’s been a slow recovery to get back into pitching mode. At last look he’s appeared in three games, giving up 17 hits and 14 runs (nine earned) in 52⁄3 innings. He will be an academic senior (general studies major) at Lamar this fall, with one year of baseball eligibility left.

But besides his October flirt with dire danger, there is something else that separates Henderson from other players. He is good friends with Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz. In fact, it’s his friendship with Buchholz that is the main reason he’s pitching at Holman Stadium. Buchholz was a guest at a Lowell Spinners hot stove banquet back in January – he began his career in Lowell – and Henderson accompanied him. That’s when Spinners officials talked to Henderson about the possibility of playing for the Silver Knights and he was all for it.

Henderson met Buchholz, who lived in nearby Nederland, Texas, after Henderson finished high school, through a mutual friend. “We started hanging out, and we’ve been friends ever since.” Buchholz offered to let Henderson stay with him in Boston, but the relief pitcher opted to stay in the area to avoid a daily commute.

It’s a natural fit, because Henderson has another Red Sox tie. Henderson’s uncle is former Red Sox slugger Kevin Millar, who helped clear a path for him to transfer to Lamar after Henderson’s original school, the University of of New Orleans, dropped down to Division III. Millar was a friend of Lamar head coach Jim Gilligan, but Henderson’s younger brother, Will, had also played at the school.

In two seasons at New Orleans, Henderson went 7-1, 3.90 as a freshman and 3-6 in an injury riddled sophomore year. In 2010 at Lamar he went 2-1, 6.31 in 16 appearances, 13 in relief.

Meanwhile, Henderson was at the Sept. 1, 2007 game when Buchholz threw his no-hitter.

“That was probably one of the best days of my life,” Henderson said. “It was the first professional game I ever saw and one of only two games I saw him pitch. It was a fun event. When (Buchholz) picked a guy off in the fourth or fifth inning after he had walked him, I remember saying, ‘Wow, this could be a special night.’

“He’s a nice guy, loves his fans and works hard. And he has a great family as well.”

Injuries have dogged Henderson his whole career; he suffered a knee injury toward the end of his senior year in high school and a couple of years ago injuries kept him from playing in the Cape Cod League. Needless to say, he wants to get things back on track so he can play professionally some day.

“Whatever I can do,” he said. “I hope to play baseball as long as I possibly can. For pitchers (wooden bat leagues) build our confidence. It’s good for everyone. It gets you ready for pro ball. Scouts get to see hitters, how they can hit, and pitchers love it because it’s not aluminum; (the ball) doesn’t go as far.

“I just hope to play baseball as long as I possibly can.”

Now that he has a new lease on life.