Sports

1998 Acalanes Alum Retrieves Stolen 97’ NCS Baseball Ring

By Gareth Kwok, Sports Editor

// Mike Henderson hit a pair of home runs in high school. Not literally, but metaphorically speaking, he did. And now, twenty years later, he has scored again.

   A class of 1998 graduate from Acalanes, Henderson won two North Coast Section (NCS) baseball titles in his junior and senior year seasons. A majority of high schoolers do not even advance to the championship game, let alone win multiple titles. But six years later after his graduation, Henderson’s “home runs” were robbed. This time, literally. 

   In 2004, his family’s house was burglarized. The thieves took all of his family’s jewelry, including Henderson’s two NCS championship rings, both of them engraved with his nickname, HENDU.

   “We went to a few pawn shops in the East Bay to look for the other jewelry, but we weren’t really looking for my ring,” Henderson said in an email interview, who now lives in New York City. “We didn’t think there was much chance that a pawn shop would take, let alone be able to sell a ring with HENDU on the side of it.”

   On Saturday, January 28, according to East Bay Times’ Rick Hurd, the Concord Police Department arrested 26 year old Jay Hernandez, a convicted gang member for an outstanding warrant. In the most unlikeliest of circumstances, Hernandez was wearing the 97’ ring on his finger at the time of arrest, prompting the police department to recover the ring and eventually search for the ring’s owner.

   At 7:44 pm that Saturday night, Concord Police released a statement on their Facebook account along with photos of the ring, asking for help to identify and find the owner. Former teammates of Henderson and Henderson’s brother, Matt, quickly notified Mike that his ring had been recovered by the police.

   “It was pretty surreal to see posts about a ring that I hadn’t really thought about in a long time from people who I had not thought about in a long time either,” Mike said.

   Mike would later reply back on the same post the next morning.

   Hahaha. Thanks everyone for the heads up,” Henderson said in the post’s comments section. “I’m in NYC so my bro is planning to head over there to pick it up for me. Of all the places for it to turn up…” During the week, the ring was returned to the Henderson family.

   Even for an NCS ring that signifies Acalanes’ first ever NCS baseball championship in school history, Henderson had a puzzling reaction to why anyone would wear that ring.

   “It’s kind of mind boggling that some guy chose to walk around wearing a ring with a school he did not go to and someone else’s nickname on it,” Henderson said. “It’s not like it’s a Super Bowl ring – that I could understand.”

   Flashback 20 years ago, to a time when Bill Clinton was President and when Henderson was a junior at Acalanes. Henderson was part of a 1997 Dons baseball team coached by current Stanley Middle School physical education teacher Dave Borghi. The #2 seeded Dons cruised all the way to the championship game, defeating #1 seeded Encinal 5-4 and ending the season with a solid 24-5 record.

   “We had a really strong team that year, with several players from each year who went on to play division one baseball,” Henderson said. “Between the strength of our lineup and a few trick plays thrown in by our coach, we were tough to beat. I didn’t get a whole lot of playing time that year. I got a lot more playing time my senior year when we won our second NCS title.”

   The Dons’ second NCS title in 1998 saw the team seeded #4 in the bracket, only to triumph their way to another championship in a 6-3 win over #2 Benicia, ending the year with 23 wins and 6 losses. Henderson looks back on those two years as not necessarily him being the most athletic on the team but as a key contributor.

   “I wasn’t the strongest or the fastest player on the team, so my style was probably more scrappy than anything else and more of a supporting role on the team,” Henderson said. “There were plenty of guys who were better than me, but I still felt like I contributed where I could and was a part of something special.”

   After high school, Henderson attended Cornell University and moved down to New York City after graduation.

   “I planned to stay in NYC for a couple years and then move back to the Bay Area. But now it’s been fifteen years and NYC feels more like home than the Bay Area,” Henderson said.

   For ten years, Henderson worked in the stock exchange market but grew increasingly tired of working in finance, resulting in a change.

   “I switched over to working at startups and I’m currently running the tech team at a company named HealthiNation,” Henderson said. “Coincidentally, the CEO of the company, Michael O’Donnell, lives in Lafayette and has two children at Acalanes. There are only a few degrees of separation from Acalanes, even when you’re on the other side of the country.”

   Between his years playing high school ball, to when all those efforts were lost in 2004, to this last week of January 2017, Henderson’s work is still not done. He hopes for another miracle regarding his stolen 98’ ring.

    “Who knows where the other ring is… So be on the lookout for anyone wearing a ring that says HENDU on it.” Henderson said.

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