Henderson keeps ball, signs another for young fan

Updated: May 9, 2007, 1:12 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

SAN FRANCISCO -- For all of his accomplishments, you'd think snagging a foul ball in the stands would be small stuff for Rickey Henderson. Hardly the case.

"Everybody was asking me for the ball. I said, 'You're not getting this ball. I always wanted to get a foul ball. This one's going on a shelf at home."
-- Rickey Henderson

Henderson, who caught a foul ball on Monday at AT&T Park, where he was watching the Mets play the Giants, kept the ball instead of handing it to a young fan.

"Everybody was asking me for the ball," Henderson said Tuesday, according to the Star-Ledger of Newark. "I said, 'You're not getting this ball. I always wanted to get a foul ball. This one's going on a shelf at home."

The young fan didn't go home empty-handed, though, as Henderson signed another ball the fan already had.

Henderson joked that his catch in the stands shows he's still got the skills to play the game.

"Showing 'em I've still got good hands. The ball found me. I was so quick."

And if Henderson has his way, fans might soon be catching foul balls hit off the bat of the man himself.

Roger Clemens' big announcement this week has Henderson hoping some club might give him one more chance to make a major league comeback.

Otherwise, he will call it a career -- for good this time.

"Seeing Roger come back, all the seed that it plants is ask me to come back one time," Henderson said Tuesday in the Mets clubhouse before New York played the Giants.

"I'm going to look at it at the end of the year. I might come out with some crazy stuff, a press conference telling every club, 'Put me on the field with your best player and see if I come out of it.' If I can't do it, I'll call it quits at the end," he said.

On Sunday, the 44-year-old Clemens announced during the seventh inning of the Mariners-Yankees game that he would once again put on pinstripes and return to the Bronx to pitch this season.

"I see Roger can come back and play. I can come back and play," the 48-year-old Henderson said. "They say I've done too much. What'd he accomplish? ... The players they put on the field nowadays, they couldn't make it in my day. They'd get sent back to Triple-A."

Henderson played in the independent Golden Baseball League two years ago, trying to attract the attention of big league teams. He hasn't played in the majors since appearing in 30 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2003, his 25th year at baseball's highest level.

Henderson, a special instructor for the Mets this season, is the career leader in runs scored (2,295) and stolen bases (1,406) and is second behind Barry Bonds in walks with 2,190. He also has 3,055 career hits, 297 home runs, won the 1990 AL MVP award and made 10 All-Star games. He won an AL Gold Glove in 1981 as an outfielder with Oakland.

Henderson is four months younger than Mets infielder Julio Franco.

"Julio's out there. I know I can play with Julio," Henderson said. "You need to name a whole lot of players before you get to Julio. ... I just want a spring training invite. Most clubs said if I got an invite, I'd probably make their club, but [they] don't have a spot."

For now, Henderson is keeping busy and fit by maintaining the 455 acres he owns near California's Yosemite National Park. He hasn't hit the gym for a while, but he drives a tractor, rides horses and raises cows -- and insists he will win a trophy in competitive fishing one day.

"I'm an old country boy. I don't look like it," he said.

But if he landed a deal like Clemens' one-year contract for $28,000,022, Henderson said he could get himself back in baseball shape in a hurry. By June, no less.

Henderson also is a realist.

"I'm through, really. I'm probably through with it now," he said. "It's just one of those things. I thank the good Lord I played as long as I played and came out of it healthy. I took a lot of pounding."

Henderson said the "bitter" thing about it is that he didn't get to leave the sport on his own terms: finishing on the field.

If his playing career indeed is over, Henderson will stay involved in baseball and even pull on a uniform from time to time to help out. He enjoys coaching players in the fundamentals of leading off and baserunning.

"I always want to be around the game," he said. "That's something that's in my blood. Helping them have success feels just as good."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.