May 9, 2012
Andy Henkemeyer has seen action in all 50 games this year, including 44 starts. Going on a tear here in the last month, Henkemeyer has a batting average of .392. In conference games, the left-fielder has batted .315 and five doubles. The Sauk Rapids, Minn., native started the season as the Gopher designated hitter as he was coming back from an injury. Hitting one of the Gophers' two inside-the-park home runs this season, Henkemeyer also had the game-winning walk-off hit against Cal Poly on March 19th. Recently he held the last ever Gopher hit in Siebert Field when he knocked out a grand slam on May 1st. As a freshman, Henkemeyer helped the Gophers to a Big Ten title as he had a 13-game hitting streak that included the Big Ten Tournament as well as NCAA play. Here's a question and answer session with the junior.
Q: Talk about your recruiting process and your decision to come to Minnesota. Were you recruited to play infield and then switched to outfield?
A: "I wasn't recruited heavily right away. I played in the Siebert Fall leagues here and I caught the eye of Rob Fornasiere. He came and watched me play my senior year and then talking with him we decided that I would be a recruited walk-on, basically because there was not enough scholarship money for me at the time. Although it was something I could earn it as I matured here as a player. I got recruited from a couple other schools such as St. Cloud State and North Dakota State University, but just coming down here to Minnesota for my visit I knew I had fallen in love with it right away. I knew it was where I wanted to play. I was a catcher in high school, but I played third base, second base, and outfield as well. The coaches said I would be recruited as a second basemen/outfielder so I just kind of went with the outfield more when a position opened up. This year I have been taking some reps at third base with Kyle Geason being injured."
Q: You played hockey in high school as well, why did you choose to focus on baseball for collegiate level?
A: "I love playing hockey, but I also love playing baseball because it is more of a passion in my life. Plus I was better at baseball than hockey so I was not getting many recruiting looks for hockey. My senior year I got a concussion that put me out the whole second half of my hockey season so that kind of ended that there as well."
Q: As a freshman, you had to come into the Gopher lineup and play a significant role. Talk about that experience and how you were able to help the Gophers win the Big Ten title.
A: "I was just talking about the Cal State Fullerton regional and how we made it there with my roommates. We had a couple injuries right away that year so a spot opened up in left field and center; Troy Larson and I kind of took those positions over. It was a great experience; it was really surreal going down, winning a Big Ten title in Columbus and then going into the Cal State Fullerton regional. It was just an amazing experience so we just kind of expect it now every year, which is just the standard for us."
Q: You played for St. Cloud River Bats over the summer. How was your experience there and do you plan on playing with them again this summer?
A: "That was a lot of fun, I met a lot of new people and the coaches were great. It was really good competition, and it was just nice to see different styles of play from around the country. There are a lot of big name colleges and a lot of smaller colleges that have good players. So I am going to do that again this summer, only this year they are called the Rox. They changed the whole program; they have new ownership with new coaches. My neighbor is one of the major owners of the team, so that is kind of nice. I am going to do that again at least for a temporary contract, and see how it goes. Playing there I saw a lot of left-handed pitchers, and that is what I struggled with my first two years just because I never really faced them, but now I feel a lot more confident at the plate because of my experience in summer ball.
Q: You dad played minor league for the Minnesota Twins affiliate. How much have you looked to him in your own baseball career for inspiration?
A: "Growing up he was always one of my coaches and we would play catch in the backyard. At my house we have a little net and cement slab in the back so that I can throw and bat, and also shoot pucks, hockey related. My Dad was always one of my coaches, so he pushed me a lot harder than the other kids. He would almost yell at me sometimes, but now it has definitely helped out. Coming into college he has backed off a lot, he knows that these coaches know a lot about what they are doing. He is just there now for the ride and the experience to always support me. My Mom and Dad have made it to every game this year."
Q: What goes through your head when you are in the outfield during a slow game? Do you ever let your mind wonder and what do you think about?
A: "It can get boring out there, but I try to stay focused most of the time. However, if we are up or down by a lot, rotating pitchers, especially with mid-week games when we are trying to get guys their experience in, your mind can kind of wander. But in most games we just go out there and talk about the situation if it's really important. We just try to stay relaxed. I know that when Troy Larson is out in center field, he is a smart kid so he thinks about organic chemistry."
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