On Monday, before he hopped on a flight, Henry Hersum hit 95 miles per hour on the radar gun during a bullpen session at his prep school in North Carolina. And on Tuesday, he was working out back home in Rhode Island.
The next step for the Saunderstown resident and Prout graduate became official last month as Hersum signed with Old Dominion, but clearly the work continues.
“I’m going to do everything I can to get as good as I can every day,” Hersum said.
That approach has carried Hersum through an unpredictable ride in 2020.
He had missed most of his junior season at Prout in 2019 while dealing with a muscular issue in his arm. An off-season of hard work was set to lead to a breakout senior season for the 6-foot-6 right-hander, but the coronavirus pandemic meant he never got a chance to take the mound in the spring.
It was July before he would pitch in a game – with his travel team out of The Clubhouse in Connecticut – but he had been busy before then.
He was committed to do a post-graduate year at Combine Academy in North Carolina, and the coaching staff there connected him with Old Dominion. Familiarity among Old Dominon coaches with The Clubhouse further greased the wheels, and video of scrimmages and bullpen sessions did the rest. Old Dominion coaches had never seen Hersum pitch in person when they offered a scholarship. That approach has been a necessity for college recruiters in 2020, and Hersum was willing to take advantage.
“It was all through video,” Hersum said.
Hersum also liked what he saw. The Monarchs are a solid program in Conference USA and count Major League star Justin Verlander among their alumni. The school’s academic offerings also fit what Hersum was looking for.
“My parents and I felt so good about the coaches and the program and everything they had to offer,” Hersum said. “It kind of checked all the boxes – down south, has the business analytics program I’m interested in, great baseball program. It felt like the perfect fit.”
A few schools floated the idea of having Hersum enroll for the 2020-21 school year, but he wanted to stick with his plan to do a postgraduate year, and Old Dominion was on the same page.
A strong summer followed. Hersum pitched in tournaments with The Clubhouse then was invited to play for the Brewers Scout Team at the WWBA World Championships in Fort Myers, Florida, a top scouting attraction in amateur baseball. Perfect Game rated him as the top prospect in Rhode Island.
Though Combine Academy’s season is a few months away, Hersum is already thrilled with the decision to continue his trajectory there. He’s been training hard, adding strength and packing on about 20 pounds. A fastball that was sitting 89 to 92 in summer tournaments was at 92 to 94 and touching 95 in his first official bullpen session this week.
“I’m not the type of person that’s going to get too excited about something,” he said. “I’m not going to have that huge reaction. Coach LaBarbera always said, ‘You don’t want to be too high or too low.’ That’s how I look at it - I’m not satisfied yet but it’s a good step.”
Hersum also enjoys being surrounded by talented and hungry players.
“It’s really good to be in an environment where all the coaches and all the players are passionate about baseball,” Hersum said. “Everybody wants to get better every day and be the best player they can be. It’s really awesome.”
The commitment to Old Dominion was made official in November, when Hersum signed a letter of intent. It was a memorable moment.
“It was pretty exciting to say ‘I’m going to be a Monarch,’” Hersum said. “I got that kind of feel-good feeling that I made the right choice and I’m really happy with where I’m going to be.”
Though Hersum’s college plans are set, there could be more unpredictability come next year. The Combine Academy season begins in February and the schedule includes opportunities to face junior college and lower-level four-year colleges in addition to other prep schools. A good showing could get Hersum further onto the radar for the Major League Baseball draft. He has already been in contact with scouts.
As always, the work will continue.
“We’ll see what happens,” Hersum said. “All I know is I’m just going to work hard to try to keep getting better.”