Inside the Recruitment: 2017 1B Justin Hensley Commits to Butler





By Phil Wade

Indiana Executive Director

Brebeuf High School senior 1B Justin Hensley recently committed to Butler. 

PBR: Why did you choose Butler? What were some key factors in making your decision?

Hensley: Butler was at the top of my list for a number of reasons, 1) they are a NCAA Division 1 school and play in the Big East conference, 2) they have a great business school which is important to me, 3) I really enjoyed the campus and new housing facilities, 4)  the campus is a 30 minute drive from my home, 5) I feel very comfortable with the coaching staff, and 6) they currently have two senior first basemen which increases my opportunity for immediate playing time next year.  

PBR: Where did they first see you compete?  

Hensley: I’m not sure.  Butler hired a completely new coaching staff in early July, 2016. I had been talking to the previous staff, however, I re-sent my information to the new coaches including my remaining summer baseball schedule and links to the PBR website so they could see my videos.  Coach Schrage said he did see me play soon after he was hired at Butler, most likely at a local tournament.  

PBR: What other schools were you considering?  

Hensley: Not many to be honest.  Once I realized that a first baseman from Indiana wasn’t a high priority for schools like Louisville, Florida or South Carolina, I put most of my efforts toward convincing Butler I was the right player for them.  During my sophomore year I contacted a handful of schools including IU, Ball State and Cincinnati to let them know of my interest.  As time went on I learned that being a first baseman wasn’t the same as being a pitcher or middle infielder.  My playing position combined with my requirements in a school significantly limited my options.   

PBR: What were your expectations about the recruiting process? Was it as expected? Easy/Difficult?  

Hensley: Having played at a high level virtually all of my baseball life, I expected the process to be easier than it was.  After my freshman year I started to realize that, FOR ME,  playing baseball in college would be more difficult than I thought.  You have to be able to play well in the right events at the right time.  It’s easier if you play a position that’s in demand by the better baseball schools.   It’s also good to be open to a variety of options if you just want to play baseball in college.  I encountered a number of obstacles over the last 3 year that made it difficult to be seen by the people I needed to see me.  Having such a limited number of schools I was interested in, I finally chose to target Butler and live with the consequences should they not want me.  You really need to honest with yourself, patient, persistent and make good decisions between your 15U and 17U seasons.   

PBR: What were you looking for out of a college program to continue you baseball career?  

Hensley: I wanted to play for a NCAA Division 1 program where I could stick for 4 years and get immediate playing time if I perform well.  I also wanted to attend college close to home which highly limited my opportunities.   

PBR: When did the recruiting process really start to heat up for you?  Was there a particular game or event that you feel turned the corner for you?  

Hensley: To be honest, I don’t think it ever heated up for me.  A few months ago, I finally decided that I would concentrate on Butler since they met virtually all of my requirements.  With help from my high school coach and my dad, I was very persistent in my communication with the Butler coaches.  I made it clear to the coaches that I was extremely interested in playing for Butler.  I would check in with them weekly to continue to re-confirm their interest in me and communicate my accomplishments during the week.  Shortly after Coach Schrage was hired, he indicated that he was aware of me, was aware of my ability to play at the D1 level and was very interested. At the same time, I also knew that their first priority was to recruit quality pitchers. Rather than travel all over the place trying to impress people, I decided to be patient and concentrate on Butler.  Once I attended their camp in September and talked to the coaches, I became more optimistic.  Finally, I received the call to visit campus and meet with Coach Schrage to discuss my future in the program.     

PBR: At what point in your career did you realize you were a college caliber player and become serious about taking your game to the next level?  

Hensley: My dad will tell you it was when I was 5 years old and spent all day hitting plastic balls off a tee, over the fence and onto the golf course behind our house upsetting the golfers who were trying to tee off.  Seriously, I’ve played at a high level and taken my game seriously for as long as I remember.  I’ve attended several instructional camps and worked with my hitting coach, Rick Stiner, it seems like forever. I think it was always understood that I wanted to play in college if things worked out. 

PBR: Who is the best player you've faced in Indiana, and why? 

Hensley: The best player that I’ve played with, and against, is Zach Britton.  Zach is a player you want on your team.  When he’s in the opponent’s dugout, you know he’s going to have an impact and your team is in for a battle.  As a teammate, he pushed me to be a better hitter.  I’ve always admired his passion for baseball and ability to be a complete player.

PBR: What advice would you give to young baseball players striving to get where you are?

Hensley:  Be passionate and have fun playing the game.  Not only enjoy the games but also the practices that are required to play great.  Work on the fundamentals and try to improve every day.  Play for coaches that are positive and respect you as a player.  I always remember my dad telling me to make 100% of the routine plays as well as a few spectacular plays.  Never give up on your dream no matter the obstacles that will surely get in the way.

PBR: What is the most memorable moment in your baseball career to this point?

Hensley:  Winning a Sectional Championship last year.

PBR: Preview your high school season for us.  How do you feel your team will be?  What are your expectations and goals?

Hensley: Our Brebeuf Jesuit 2017 team should be pretty good.  Last year we were Sectional Champions but lost 8-7 in the Regional to eventual 3A State Champion Northview Knights.  We feel we should have won that game.  We return several good pitchers and will be a senior dominated team.  I think all nine starters will be ranked players according to PBR.  We expect to be the 2017 3A State Champion at the end of the season.

PBR: Where do you play in the summer?  What has been your most memorable experience with them?

Hensley:  I was an original member of the first Indiana Nitro team that evolved into the large organization it is today.  I played there for 6 years before joining the Indiana Bulls Black 17U team last summer.  I’ll be playing for the Indiana Blue Jays 18U team next summer.  My most memorable experiences are associated with playing well and winning several tournaments over the years with, and against, many of the best players in Indiana.  Those memories will last forever.

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