Competing in home run derbies in major league stadiums is not something most people get to do in their lifetime but for a 14-year-old Leavenworth resident, it is part of who he is becoming.
Around three years ago, Eddie Henchek – born in Raleigh, North Carolina – was recognized for his hitting prowess then invited to participate in the annual national Power Showcase, an event dedicated to celebrating power hitters of various youth ages.
Henchek competed in his third PS event last weekend at Chase Field in Phoenix, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and competed at Marlins Ballpark in Miami in three other events.
“It’s really fun,” he said. “But you still have to stay calm and keep your composure.”
Standing 6 feet, 5 inches, Henchek was among the tallest in the 14U division for the home run derby. In the final round, he hit six home runs, one traveling an estimated 431 feet.
“I feel like I could have done a little bit better but I was happy that I got six,” he said.
Previously, he hit four home runs in the 13U derby at PS Miami in 2018.
Henchek and his father, Chris, said they recognized his hitting prowess and ability to hit for power when he was clearing 200-foot fences at the age of 8. Chris said he saw his son’s potential through unpolished fundamentals.
“It was an ugly swing,” he said. “He had a straight armbar and a Roberto Clemente kick but he was seeing the ball with both eyes and was strong enough to put the ball that far. It stood out.”
From there, Chris found a hitting coach and eventually connected with former Boston Red Sox third baseman Scott Cooper in St. Louis. When Henchek first attended a camp of Cooper’s for high schoolers as a seventh-grader, Cooper could not believe how young he was.
“At that point, (Scott) Cooper said to come to his house and that he wanted to work with Eddie personally,” Chris said. “So we’ve been doing that for two years now and it’s made a tremendous difference.”
With Cooper in St. Louis and Henchek in Leavenworth, they make sure to take advantage of the time they get to work together in person.
“He can’t wait to get in the cage when he comes out here,” Cooper said in a phone interview. “We’ll hit for three hours and he’ll never want to stop.”
Henchek said he really enjoys getting feedback from Cooper.
“I just like hearing what he has to say on my swing,” he said, “what I’m doing wrong and how to fix it.”
Cooper, who also co-founded the St. Louis Gamers, a team Henchek plays on, said he continues to see Henchek’s potential grow as he gets older.
“He’s still growing a lot and has a ton of power potential,” Cooper said. “As he gets bigger and stronger he’ll have to learn to use that length but there are a lot of things he already knows that will help.”
Henchek is a freshman at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park. He plans to compete on the baseball team with the ability to play first or third base and pitcher in addition to his skill in the batter’s box. He plans to continue participating in the PS events, in part because of the friendships he has created.
“It’s like a family,” he said. “You really get to bond with everyone.”
As Henchek progresses through high school, Cooper anticipates he will continue to progress.
“He’s just a special kid,” Cooper said. “He’s humble and modest even when he doesn’t have to be. He meets a lot of people and gets a lot of attention and still keeps his head on his shoulders.”