Chicago Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks will be honored Wednesday by the Orange County Youth Sports Foundation as the Sportsman of the Year.
The Capistrano Valley High School alumnus had a 16-8 record in 2016 and the lowest ERA among the team’s starters, 2.13.
Hendricks was the winning pitcher when the Cubs won their first National League pennant since 1945. He started Game 7 of the World Series, but was taken out with two outs in the bottom of the fifth and Chicago leading, 5-1.
The Cubs won the game in 10 innings, and their first World Series championship since 1908 it what Hendricks called “the most out-of-body experience.”
With all the ups and downs of that classic Game 7, with the Cubs blowing a 6-3 lead in the eighth inning, watching first baseman Anthony Rizzo glove the final out “was such a sense of relief. It was such a long journey, such a tough road… You almost felt numb, and just pure elation,” Hendricks said.
Then, as if that weren’t enough, a couple of months later he found himself with his teammates shaking hands with the president of the United States.
“To be able to shake hands with (President Barack Obama) and hug the first lady — it was really cool to be in their presence and see the White House,” Hendricks said.
The team never really discussed the politics of the hastily arranged visit at Obama’s invitation and whether it made more sense to make the trip as most teams do the following summer when they’re in Washington to play the Nationals, Hendricks said.
“Politics isn’t really talked about,” he said. “Myself, personally, Obama being a Chicago guy is awesome.”
It is possible the Cubs could make a return trip to meet incumbent President Donald Trump, Hendricks said.
“Word is we may go back and see Trump,” Hendricks said. “Either way it would have been cool to have the whole experience and meet the president. I won’t say no to it if they decide to do it.”
Hendricks spent a lot of time playing baseball with his friends growing up in San Juan Capistrano.
“Dana Point Little League — those are some of my best times,” the right-hander recalled. “I got to go to Cooperstown when I was 12 with that team.”
Playing at Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo “was awesome – – from the level of baseball to a great school that prepared me for college.”
Hendricks was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels out of high school, but he opted to play for Dartmouth College and was drafted by the Texas Rangers in 2011, and then ended up with the Cubs in a trade.
Hendricks is expecting a little razzing as he’s saluted with a “mini roast.”
Hendricks said he is excited about helping the organization raise money for local youths who face extra challenges.
“I’m glad I can help out in any way,” Hendricks said. “I was one of those kids who flew under the radar. I wasn’t hyped up.
“There are so many good players in this area that it’s pretty easy to fall under the radar sometimes… I want to help give as many kids an opportunity as possible to see where they can go.”
Hendricks praised the foundation for its work with at-risk youths.
“It’s all about passing it on to the next guy,” Hendricks said.
—City News Service