This time two years ago, York resident Mark Hendrickson sat back in his York Township home. It's a familiar place. He had purchased the town home in the late 1990s in his early years as a pro basketball player for the Philadelphia 76ers, a few years before he gave up the sport to focus entirely on baseball.
Hendrickson hadn't been in the home in the months of March and April in nearly 10 years. He had instead spent those months in past years in big league spring training. The tall left-hander pitched for the Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers, Miami Marlins and Baltimore Orioles.
Two years ago, however, at age 37 and with more than 300 big league games under his belt, Hendrickson was without a job. But the 6-foot, 9-inch southpaw still felt he had plenty left in the tank and wanted to get back out on the mound. So he returned to another familiar place, opting to pitch in the local town ball Susquehanna League, becoming a starting pitcher for York Township. It's the same league he had played in growing up over the summers, when he would come from his home state of Washington to visit relatives in York. Hendrickson's mother is originally from Dallastown but his parents moved out to Washington when he was a child.
Hendrickson thought it wouldn't be a problem to get big league scouts to come watch him perform on the mound for York Township.
"I was home, playing in Susquehanna League. Nobody (scouts) would come see me," Hendrickson said. "There was no interest."
For most of 2012, Hendrickson had people tell him to try changing his pitching motion entirely and become a sidearmer. He resisted initially. But after making roughly a dozen starts for York Township in 2012 and getting no bites from pro scouts, he figured the change might be his only chance to keep his baseball career alive.
"If I recall, in 2012 we were in the championship. I took the loss against Red Lion. I said 'OK. That's it. This doesn't do it for me," he said.
So Hendrickson gave the sidearm thing a try. And the Orioles gave him a chance, signing him to a minor league deal in 2013. In his 15th year as a pro baseball player, but his first as a sidearm pitcher, Hendrickson went on to post a 5-3 record and 3.06 ERA in 40 relief appearances with the O's Class AAA Norfolk affiliate.
"I took my lumps early and got better and better as I went. And that led into this year because that was a little deflating where I thought there might be some opportunities," he said.
He still needs to prove to himself he can succeed in the majors like he did with his old, traditional over-the-top throwing motion.
"I continue to buy into it. Given what I did last year, to me it was unfinished," he said.
Hendrickson, 39, was again a free agent last month. He had one workout in front of Boston Red Sox scouts over the offseason but couldn't land a deal. And if he wanted to get seen by big league scouts, he couldn't go back to the Susquehanna League. So he decided to join the York Revolution. The club announced his signing over the weekend.
"I've done the Susquehanna League. Not to compare the two, but that reduced schedule, it didn't work out," he said. "This league (Atlantic League) here with York is very competitive. You've got guys with major league experience. Scouts actually go to these games and watch. Plus, I do think there's a lot of benefits off the field as well as far as my family and friends having the opportunity to see me play. And working with the local charities I'm involved with."
Charities such as Olivia's House, which offers programs and activities for grieving children and their families. And the travel baseball and softball organization, Young York Revolution. He also hopes to promote his two-year-old real estate company, Major League Properties, at Revs' games. Plus, he'll be able to spend more time with his wife, Cortney, and his three daughters, Hannah, 19, Sadie, 3, and Sophia, 1.
"It can be a win-win for a lot of things," he said.
— Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.