ATHLETE OF THE WEEK : Gain Without Pain a Winning Regimen for Monroe’s Henson

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Sean Henson, hedonist?

A couch potato? Spud or stud?

Can this be the guy who struck out nine in a 4-2 win over San Fernando High in the first round of the City Section 4-A Division playoffs last Friday?

Consider the Monroe High junior left-hander’s less-than-stressful workout regimen during the recent teachers’ strike, which forced cancellation of play and official team practices for two weeks. It seems that Henson spent most of his time hanging out, rather than ironing out his hanging curves.

“I threw a couple of times over the vacation, uh, strike,” he said. “I didn’t do much running.”


Tim Costic, the other half of the Monroe pitching staff, says that while some players used the break to put in some extra baseball work, Henson went his own way. But Costic found no fault with Henson’s success, i.e., Zs apparently leading to Ks.

“Sean hasn’t done that much,” Costic said. “I think he did a lot of sleeping in.”

Henson, who finished with a six-hitter, kept the San Fernando bats in a deep sleep. After the Tigers took a 2-0 lead in the second inning--the key blow was a triple that rolled to the fence on Monroe’s lightning-fast turf (which had not been watered because of the strike)--Henson settled down.

In the late innings, Henson (5-5) escaped several jams with the strikeout and double-play ball. San Fernando hit into inning-ending double plays in the third, fourth and fifth.

With the score tied, 2-2, in the sixth, the Tigers loaded the bases and threatened to blow the game open. Henson, however, struck out the side. In fact, he struck out both pinch-hitter Fernando Ortega and designated-hitter John Najar on three pitches.

For an encore, Henson struck out Jess Romero and Richard Ortiz--both entered the game with batting averages better than .400--in the seventh to end the game. Of the final nine outs, six came on strikeouts.

“My legs were a little wobbly,” Henson said, “but my arm felt real strong in the late innings.”


Early innings were another story. The game’s first batter, Romero, was plunked by an 0-and-2 pitch.

“That was nerves showing,” Henson said. “I hadn’t thrown and I didn’t know what to expect.”

And with eight right-handed batters in the Tiger lineup, it looked like Henson might not last long. Yet he soon righted the ship.

“I actually like throwing to right-hand batters,” Henson said. “I can come in on them and spot pitches better, and the fastball tails away from them.”

The movement of Henson’s fastball made it difficult for San Fernando to execute. Usually a team that does the little things right, the Tigers failed four times on sacrifice-bunt attempts.

“Sean’s ball, with the way it moves around, is hard to lay down,” said Costic, who played first base Friday and was charging toward home plate in each sacrifice situation. “I kept expecting to have to make the throw, but they never got the ball down. He just challenged them.”


It must have seemed hauntingly familiar for San Fernando, which last season was upset by Monroe, 3-2, in the 4-A championship. Henson struck out 10 in that game.