(Written by: Teresa Goodnight for Community Spirit Magazine – Full Article)
TULSA, Okla. – Spencer Henson is already building a legacy on and off the field at 21. A talented first baseman and pitcher for the ORU Golden Eagles, Spencer was training just before the interview. In just the first few minutes, I knew exactly why the coaches selected Spencer for the story. We were looking for someone with character, building a legacy—and as you will read Spencer does NOT disappoint.
I told Spencer we wanted to highlight what he does on and off the field in creating a legacy. I'm not even sure he took a breath before he started. "I think the way you do things on the field trickles down into how you do things off the field and how you do things outside of baseball. On the field, growing up, you are taught not to skip reps. Do things like no one is watching to get your training in. Whether that's in the weight room or on the field, you are there to make yourself better, stronger." Spencer continued, "I've always believed what you put in is what you get out. You do good things and good things will happen to you." Spencer emphasized, "On the baseball side, the harder you work at something the luckier you get or the readier you are for the opportunities that come up. I just carry that over off the field as well." Spencer's character of strength showed through in everything he said.
Spencer started playing ball in Pryor, Oklahoma with honors like the Louisville Slugger All American his sophomore through senior year. After high school, he landed firmly at ORU when it was time for college. Spencer said, "I actually played here with the summer team, the BBA Titans, from my sophomore year to my senior year. I just liked the atmosphere. I liked the coaches. They were real and personable with really great attitudes." Spencer added, "When you go to other schools, the coaches, it's just like it's difficult to talk to them."
Spencer had a lot of offers from bigger schools, but he felt being close to home in a supportive environment with the kind of coaches and team he saw at ORU was the answer. Spencer said, "Playing at ORU is different. The guys around here, the coaches, they will step to the side and talk to you and you can share what you're thinking or feeling. They'll get on a personal level with you; you know you matter as a person. I just didn't see that at other schools as I looked around. It was different here." That kind of support and confidence building landed Spencer the Triple Crown honor for his sophomore year at ORU, along with player of the week several times from the Summit League. It is easy to see how it's been a part of shaping him into the confident man across the table.
When I asked Spencer, "Any people who have guided you in how to stay on your path?" He immediately answered, "Probably my teammates. When I first got here, it was a pretty experienced, older group. So, I tried to just absorb it all. I didn't get much play time freshman year, as the elders on the team had already proven themselves. So, I sat behind and watched Matt Whatley, Brent Williams and Nick Rotola and how they handled their business and how mature they were on and off the field." Watching these other men set such strong examples on and off the field showed Spencer true character in action. It's easy to see why joining a team with such committed, caring coaches and well-behaved players would "rub off" the kind of character you'd be proud to see in your child.
Spencer is also a big family guy. It's just a support system he's always had. He said, "Having the family here and looking up there and seeing them in the stands, it's also a big confidence booster and a reminder that there's more to life than just playing baseball." Interestingly, Spencer actually helped start his family attending church when he was just 9 years old in Pryor. Spencer said, "I grew up going to Southeast Baptist Church. One of my friend's dad is a pastor there." Spencer was told, "You can spend the night but we've gotta go to church in the morning." He laughed because he is now pretty sure the preacher had a plan all along. He said, "It was really cool because I think Pastor Rob knew what he was doing. He had a little parable that he talked about with me and threw me in the story. It was a cool feeling to have. Then, he went into how it transitioned into the Biblical side of things. Ever since then, I told my parents, 'This is a pretty cool place. We actually need to start going there.' We've been there ever since."
We talked about life on the field, as it's quite a battle in your mind sometimes. Spencer said, "When I get down on the field, we do a lot of mental side training here. For me it's like, say I do boot a ball, I'll always look back at this right field foul pole at the top of it, cause there's always a right field foul pole anywhere you play. So, I just stare at it a few seconds, take a deep breath into my glove, and say 'Flush it. Don't worry about it. You're gonna get another ground ball. It's not gonna be the last one you boot. It's not gonna be the last one you're gonna get.' So I just get myself back in and ready for the next play." Spencer added, "I really focus to give myself confidence and a reminder that it's not the end of the world regardless of how it felt."
I asked Spencer to translate his life on the field into his daily life. Spencer said, "I think you try to give like things have been given to you. You know, as an example, if somebody needs some cash you hand them a twenty and there's some way that the kindness returns to you. Actually, funny enough it happened the other day. A guy was needing some money and I gave him $40. Then, I was going to the store to get a meal and I was checking my bank account and it wasn't looking too good. Then I'm walking in the parking lot and I stepped on $40 on the ground. It was really cool. It doesn't happen all the time, but when it does happen, it's just a good reassurance that you're doing the right thing." I couldn't help but think through life on a college-student budget, when every dollar counts. Having the gracious heart to offer what you have to someone in need—not knowing what you will do to cover your own meal—that's giving the shirt off of your back without hesitation. That's a guy building a legacy by example, even when no one is watching.
I asked Spencer, "If you were talking to high school students, trying to figure out what they're going to do in life—what would you tell them?" Spencer again didn't hesitate with an answer. "I'd tell them to ask questions. A lot of people, and I'm calling myself out here, just think they know things and don't ask to learn more." Spencer added, "When I was in high school, I was like 'I'm gonna do this, this and this. Then a year later, I'm like 'I don't know what I'm gonna do.' You're still a kid when you're in high school. If you're curious about something don't be afraid to ask. The more you ask the more you learn." Spencer spoke with conviction of experience, "Don't be afraid to reach out. Don't be afraid to try things and fail. You won't know if you like it or not if you don't try it. Even if you fail—and you don't mind it, you should keep doing it until that drive runs out or you get better and find a passion for it. Then, if that wasn't the fit—go try something else." Spencer said, "Make a list of what you want to do, a checklist and a goal list of the things you want to try to do. If you don't like it, check it off. Have goals and aspirations. Put them down. Ask about them. Explore them." That kind of drive and learning to overcome fear of failure has set him on a path he loves at ORU and in baseball.
In closing, I asked Spencer, "What would you say to someone, if you were wanting to inspire them. Spencer said confidently, "If I had a chance to inspire anyone—I'd say 'JUST GO DO IT.' You don't know if you're gonna like it until you try it." He said he's still trying to figure out his post collegiate plans. He's going to be doing baseball as long as he can, in whatever capacity that may be. Spencer said, "I'd like to get back into the college level and do some hitting coordination. Just whatever ways I can stay around the baseball field, just doing whatever makes me feel like I'm 12 still." Spencer may love to feel like he's 12, but he's certainly built a character and a legacy already of someone much older, wiser, and worth watching.
ORU baseball kicked off February 15th for the 2019 season. Check out Spencer Henson and the rest of the amazing team. Tulsa is quite fortunate to have such a set of examples on and off the field to watch. See the schedule at http://www.oruathletics.com/sports/bsb/2018-19/schedule.