Henderson, baseball's career steals leader, hasn't played in the big leagues since 2003, when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 47-year-old outfielder spent 2004 with the Newark Bears of the Atlantic League and 2005 with the San Diego Surf Dawgs of the Golden League.
"In my mind, I'm not really done playing," he said Friday
during a telephone conference call. "I love playing the game, but
right now I haven't had the opportunity to go out and play. I feel
that I have a lot to give back to the game."
Omar Minaya, the Mets general manager, sat next to Henderson during a game of the 2002 World Series and brought up the topic of instructing young players. Dave Stewart, Henderson's former Oakland teammate, let Minaya know during the offseason that Henderson was ready.
"In my opinion, Rickey is the best leadoff hitter in the history of the game," Minaya said.
Henderson will spend about 10 days with the Mets during the second half of spring training and will join them for a week at an unspecified time of the regular season.
"I still think I can play the game of baseball," he said.
"I'm going to camp to [teach] the young kid about basestealing ...
how to run the bases, what to do at certain times."
Henderson's real desire is to add to his 1,406 steals and 2,295 runs -- both major league records.
"I was looking, of course, to get the opportunity to play in the major leagues," he said. "I think that's what my goal in my
heart [is], the desire to go out and play baseball."
Henderson played for the Mets in 1999 and part of 2000, then was released by New York after he failed to run out a drive. He and Bobby Bonilla were accused of playing cards in the Mets' clubhouse during 1999's season-ending, extra-inning loss at Atlanta in the NL Championship Series.
"I think playing cards gave me the opportunity to relax in the
game," Henderson said.
Pedro Martinez still hasn't received the special shoe,
designed to ease pain in his right toe. Minaya expects Martinez
will get it before spring training starts Thursday. "Right now I
expect him to be in the day he's supposed to report. But we all
know Pedro," Minaya said. When he was with the Red Sox, Martinez
tended to arrive after the voluntary reporting date.