Henderson signs contract to play in San Diego

Updated: May 9, 2005, 7:14 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

SAN DIEGO -- Rickey Henderson is ready to run again.

Rickey Henderson

Baseball's career leader in runs and stolen bases will play in the new independent Golden Baseball League this season, agreeing on Monday to join the San Diego Surf Dawgs.

"He still just wants to play," Surf Dawgs manager Terry Kennedy told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "I think he wants to be the first one to hit a home run, cross home plate and collect his salary check, pension and social security all at the same time."

He creates a buzz. The two-sided thing for us is he will put people in the seats, and he can still play a little bit.
Surf Dawgs manager Terry Kennedy

The 46-year-old Henderson started the last two years with the Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League. He finished 2003 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, playing in 30 games.

"He still hopes to play in the majors," agent Jeff Borris said. "He still feels that he can be competitive."

Borris said Henderson enjoyed his time with Newark, but the 10-time All-Star picked the Surf Dawgs because they're closer to his home in the Bay Area and he liked the San Diego area when he played for the Padres.

Henderson will make $3,000 a month in salary, and more with a lucrative marketing agreement with the league -- including a Rickey Henderson bobblehead night.

"He creates a buzz," Kennedy told the Union-Tribune. "The two-sided thing for us is he will put people in the seats, and he can still play a little bit.

"When I spoke to him I said, 'Are you in shape?' and he said, 'You know I am.' Who else has that kind of body at age 46?"

The Golden Baseball League is in its first season and will play games in California and Arizona. The Surf Dawgs open the season May 26 at Tony Gwynn Stadium, home of San Diego State. They started spring training Monday in Mesa, Ariz.

"I wanted to be a part of something special and contributing to the launch of a new league was very exciting to me," Henderson said in a statement. "I love playing this game and every spring training feels like the first."

Organizers of the league, formed last year, did not express an interest at first in signing former major leaguers, fearing it would be viewed as a publicity stunt, the paper reported.

But the league decided Henderson was worth it.

"As with any signing of a big athlete, someone who has a reputation, people are going to view it that way [as a publicity stunt]," Dave Kaval, the GBL's founder and CEO, told the Union-Tribune. "But if people come out to the ballpark, they're going to see how much Rickey plays. He's such a competitor. He wants to win. ... The doubters and cynics will be pleasantly surprised."

By continuing to play professionally, however, Henderson is delaying his Hall of Fame eligibility.

Henderson scored 2,295 runs and stole 1,406 bases in his 25-year career in the big leagues. He had 3,055 hits and was the career leader in walks with 2,190 before Barry Bonds passed him.

There are eight teams in the GBL, including a club made up of Japanese players that will travel to all 90 of its games this season.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.