By Clay Walters
Most Ole Miss fans know Brad Henderson through the lens of Rebels baseball. They know him as the all-time program hits leader and a bright spot on some otherwise lackluster teams, and now as one of the radio voices of Ole Miss baseball. But many do not know the story of his unique origins.
A Starkville, Mississippi native, Henderson grew up wrapped in maroon and white. The son of a high school baseball coach, he and his father, Sammy, grew up watching MSU baseball games and cheering on the Ron Polk led Bulldogs on their rise to becoming a national power in the 1980’s.
His dream was to one day play in a Bulldog uniform; however this would not be the case. After moving to Tupelo and his father becoming the head baseball coach there, a horrific football injury sidelined Henderson in high school. College offers came few and far between. His dream of playing SEC baseball almost vanished as the programs he was most interested in failed to reach out to him during the recruitment process.
Finally, the last school he probably ever thought he would play for came calling.
Ole Miss head coach Don Kessinger approached Henderson to let him know that a spot on the roster had opened up and that it was available to him. As the saying goes, “the rest is history.”
History was made, to say the least. Baseball in Oxford in the 1990’s was not the same as it is today. The Ole Miss stadium was much smaller as were the crowds. The program back then considered itself fortunate just to make the postseason, as opposed to today when Rebel fans are disappointed that the team does not make it to Omaha, Nebraska.
“We weren’t very good my first three years. Back then there were 12 teams in the league and only eight made the (SEC) tournament. We didn’t make the tournament until I was a senior,” Henderson said.
While the team itself failed to reach many of its goals during Henderson’s career at Ole Miss, his individual accomplishments did not go unnoticed. Four years after Henderson signed to play baseball at Ole Miss, he became the school’s all-time hits leader against Georgia in 1999. Henderson would go on to hold other hitting records that still stand today, as well such as doubles and runs scored. In his senior year, the Rebels finally made the postseason and played in the NCAA College Station Regional. This is where Henderson had one of his favorite memories.
“My last at bat in college I hit a home run off of the scoreboard,” he said.
Henderson has nothing but positive memories of his days donning the Ole Miss colors, and has been a prominent figure within the program since his playing days ended nearly 23 years ago. Now he joins David Kellum in the booth every weekend throughout the spring for the radio broadcast.
The scene at Swayze Field is also much different from the way it used to look. The crowds are exponentially larger and the stadium has grown with it.
“A lot of times they will have more people at intersquads than we had at games. The infrastructure there is so much greater than it was when I played,” he said.
This program that now holds a winning pedigree is a result of guys like Henderson. These players and coaches are who laid the foundation for Coach Mike Bianco to expand the Ole Miss baseball brand. Through all of the accolades, rewards, and accomplishments, Henderson has never forgotten who made him love the sport.
“It’s gotta be my dad just because he introduced me to it and allowed me to be around it,” he said. “When your dad is a coach and you’re young, I was on the baseball field with high school players shagging fly balls.”
Henderson eventually followed in his father’s footsteps and began a coaching career that included stops at programs such as Arkansas State where he was an assistant.
Now Henderson is back in Oxford working in the insurance business, as well as at Swayze Field calling the sport he loves for the team he loves. This is the same team that took a chance on him when he had few other options. With that opportunity Henderson was able to cement his name in the record books.
Now Oxford, a place that probably felt like a different country when he was young, Henderson calls home.