Hendrickson's long journey to Camden Yards

The Orioles will send Mark Hendrickson to the hill to open their series against the Tampa Bay Rays. The 6-foot-9 lefty started 19 games for Florida a season ago. But his trip to this point has been a long and winding one. Here's the edited nickel tour through newspaper archives:

February 8, 2000 | Seattle Post-Intelligencer

It's a choice Mark Hendrickson isn't sure he wants to make just yet.

Give up baseball for basketball, or basketball for baseball?

For now, the former Washington State University two-sport star from Mount Vernon is still trying to find out what his future holds...

"I like them both and (would like to) keep doing them both," he said. "So far, it's worked out well for me."

The 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward would like to find a home in the NBA, but for now he's content to live the life of a nomad in professional sports while his career is in limbo.

...The Blue Jays, however, would like Hendrickson to make up his mind about which pro sport he wants to play.

"Our belief is that if he got to the point where basketball was no longer in the picture and he spent full time at baseball, he would have a chance to be a major league prospect," said Bob Nelson, the Blue Jays' director of baseball operations...

"If he's going to stay with basketball, that's fine," Nelson said. "The longer he stays there, his chances diminish in baseball. To make it in either sport, you have to be 100 percent behind what you're doing in that particular sport."

December 30, 1999 | Akron Beacon Journal

If forward Mark Hendrickson, signed Monday by the Cavs, looks familiar, there's a reason for it. In a well-known photo, Hendrickson is shown as a Philadelphia rookie in 1996-97 trying to defend Michael Jordan as he hangs in the air. The photo graces the covers of the books "Sports Illustrated Greatest Photos" and the "1997-98 NBA Register." "I was surprised it's been in as many books as it has," said Hendrickson, who was quick to remark Jordan scored on "a layup, not a dunk."

July 25, 1999 | Knoxville News-Sentinel

Mark Hendrickson has juggled the sports for years, but if he continues to pitch they way he did Friday night for the Smokies, the 6-foot-9 left-hander from Mount Vernon, Wash., could be spending more time on the mound than on the court.

Hendrickson, who was a two-sport star at Washington State University and drew a lot of attention, pitched four scoreless innings against Jacksonville before he wilted in the heat. Although he was nicked for a couple of runs in the fifth, his fourth appearance was his best outing of the season and continued his steady improvement.

"He is at the point where his arm is game-ready," Knoxville pitching coach Darren Balsley said.

January 31, 1999 | Lewiston (Idaho) Morning Tribune

Mark Hendrickson is a man without a team, but he's hoping his status will soon change.

In the meantime, the former Washington State basketball standout is working out in Pullman, waiting to hear from some interested NBA party.

"Basically I'm on call," Hendrickson said Saturday after taking in WSU's 95-86 victory over USC at Friel Court. "Whenever that phone rings, I've got to go. And when I do get that call, whenever it may be, I'll be ready to go."

...Despite the NBA's current post-lockout state, Hendrickson is optimistic about his chances of landing somewhere in the league.

"This looks like a bleak season," he said. "But this season's going to be weird. I tell people this is my opportunity. I've got to be ready to step in and get my look and that's going to be my shot."

...If Hendrickson doesn't hear from a basketball team in the next three weeks or so, he may decide to spurn the NBA and head to spring training with Toronto.

"It's a decision I'm faced with and it's a decision I have to make when that time comes around," Hendrickson said. "I gave myself two years to make the big leagues, and hopefully in two years I'll be playing both. But right now I'm focused on basketball."

July 2, 1998 | St. Petersburg Times

Dunedin pitcher Mark Hendrickson's experience at the top of his sport gives  him survival skills most minor-leaguers don't have.

Never mind that the sport is basketball.

Hendrickson joined the Dunedin Blue Jays on June 18, about a month after  signing a minor-league contract with Toronto. ...

"A lot of people think I stopped playing basketball," said Hendrickson,  who towers over the mound at 6 feet 9, 220 pounds. "The reason why I decided  to (play baseball) now, it's the best time for me to play both. I'm physically  and mentally ready. It's a unique situation."

The Blue Jays drafted Hendrickson as a free agent in June 1997, the third time in his baseball career he had been drafted. (He went unsigned the  previous two times.)... 

More important, he has strengthened his arm and adjusted to throwing on a  regular basis. By his own estimate, he threw about once a week during the  summer the previous five years.

"I always felt I was a good pitcher, but I never went about getting my arm  in shape," he said. "Once I get everything fine-tuned, I don't see why I  can't advance rapidly (through the organization). I expect that of myself. The  key is to just be patient."

Hendrickson said the average journey from minor to major leagues takes three or four years, but he hopes to shorten that span by focusing more on  baseball during the basketball off-season. Of course, it's easier to focus  these days, with an NBA lockout threatening to cut into the basketball season.

But in a normal season, Hendrickson hopes to play baseball from June to  September, then turn back to basketball. His contract with the Blue Jays  allows for this to happen...

"Within myself, I know where I'm at right now," he said. "I know I'm not  even close to my potential. That's why I get eager the way things are coming  along.

"I want to play both for as many years as I can at the pro level. My  biggest pet peeve is pro athletes who say, "I gave up this sport because I had  to make a decision.' I'm a firm believer that if you have the ability to play,  you follow through on it."

May 27, 1998 | Toronto Globe & Mail

He began last season with the LaCrosse, Wis., Bobcats of the Continental Basketball Association before he joined Sacramento where he played 48 games, averaging 3.4 points and three rebounds. He is still under contract to Sacramento and is pretty much a steady but unspectacular player in the National Basketball Association.

Mark Hendrickson has played at the SkyDome already this year -- as a member of the Sacramento Kings of the National Basketball Association.

...But he had made it clear that he wanted to go as far as he could in basketball.

The Blue Jays had until the end of May to sign him or he would have been eligible for the draft again.

When the Blue Jays took him last June it was the sixth time he had been selected in baseball's amateur draft, a record since the supplementary January draft was abolished in 1987.

...As a baseball player, he pitched a little at Washington State and he has played semi-professional the past few summers.

The scouts like his loose arm, coordination, body control and his feel for pitching. His fastball is average to a little better than average. He also has the potential for a good breaking ball.

June 7, 1996 | Seattle Times

"Three or four of the players here," said Scotty Stirling, a scout for the Sacramento Kings, "will be picked in the first round. Mark Hendrickson might be one of them."

They rode a school bus from the Hyatt Regency Hotel to a small gym in downtown Chicago where, in folding chairs circled around the court, sat the basketball gods.

Mark Hendrickson told himself not to look at their faces for it would spook his game. But, come on, there was Larry Bird over there, Lenny Wilkens up there, P.J. Carlesimo behind the beard, Bob Lanier against the wall, Pete Newell taking notes.

Wes Unseld, Bill Fitch, Bob Whitsitt, Del Harris, Rick Adelman, Bernie Bickerstaff, Tim Grgurich. Who wasn't there?

"If you think about it," said Hendrickson, "it will drive you nuts."

Not far from the circus that is the NBA Finals, is the pre-draft meat market, at the Moody Bible Institute, where among 57 players Hendrickson, Mark Sanford and Mark Pope are trying to look and act like NBA players.

The big names in the June 25 draft weren't here, Marcus Camby, Ray Allen, Stephon Marbury. Neither were the high-school kids, Kobe Bryant and Jermaine O'Neal...

Hendrickson, the Washington State star from Mount Vernon, has their attention. He also has them confused.

He was drafted for a fifth time by baseball, this time by the Texas Rangers. He is a 6-foot-9 left-handed pitcher.

"I think he'll play 10 years in the NBA," Stirling said. "He knows how to play; not a lot of guys here do. He has good footwork, and he knows how to score against quickness. What bothers the guys (scouts) is baseball."

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