Keeping Score: Danielle Henderson’s UMass homecoming

Published: 6/18/2021 9:44:54 PM

Good morning!
The UMass softball program is fully funded, together with Fordham and URI. Every year it is expected to finish first or second in the A-10 and go deep into the postseason. The late Elaine Sortino set the standard. Her teams won 23 A-10 titles, qualified for 21 NCAA appearances and made three trips to the College World Series.

Hers was a tough act to follow. Deposed coach Kristi Stefanoni wasn’t up to the task, and now it’s Danielle Henderson’s turn. A maestro on the mound at UMass, in 1999 Henderson set the NCAA record (since broken) by pitching 125 continuous scoreless innings. She was named NCAA Player of the Year her senior year and subsequently helped the U.S. win gold at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.

After a stint in pro ball, Henderson was the pitching coach at Ohio State and Stanford until Sortino got sick. According to several sources, she had been Sortino’s hand-picked successor. “Danielle left Stanford at Elaine Sortino’s request but (Sortino) died before she could tell AD John McCutcheon what her intentions were.”

It’s not known why McCutcheon hired Stefanoni, but this was the same guy who hired football coach Charley Molnar. Whatever the reason, Henderson left to coach UMass-Lowell which was only two years removed from playing in Division II. According to the state payroll website, she made $78,000 this year compared to Stefanoni’s $100,000 salary.

But Henderson didn’t leave UML to make more money, it was to return to where she belongs. She gets to drive the Cadillac, as TFHS coach Gary Mullins would say, to run a fully funded, Division I program with a long history of success. She helped build the legacy, and now she must preserve it.

“I think they offered Danielle the job as a makeup,” said the source. Indeed, better late than never as the saying goes.

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The Athletic has ranked the Top 25 all-time entrance songs and walk-up music. Not surprisingly Mariano Rivera’s “Enter Sandman” is tops on the list. By the time he retired in 2013, Rivera had chalked up 652 regular season saves. The Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen is closest among active closers with 327.

Add it all up — wins and losses and postseason stats — and Rivera was 90-61 with 694 saves.

Former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon used a Woody Guthrie song popularized by Dropkick Murphys called “I’m Shipping Up to Boston.”

Closers get the glory, but what about hurlers who pitch the middle innings? How about “Bridge over Troubled Waters.”

But not all players get to choose their music. Sparky Lyle wasn’t thrilled that Yankees’ organist Toby Wright played “Pomp and Circumstance” whenever he came into a game, but White Sox slugger Dick Allen was flattered that organist Nancy Faust played “Jesus Christ Superstar” as he strode to the plate.

Todd Frazier’s walk-up music is “Fly Me to the Moon” by Frank Sinatra; Manny Ramirez liked a rap song called “I Get High” which was yanked from the playlist because it contained a 12-letter profanity. “Far be it for me to understand the psychology of what motivates a player,” said Red Sox spokesman Charles Steinberg.

Two years ago in Gainesville I wrote to Florida slugger Jud Fabian and suggested he use Fabian’s hit from 1959, “Turn Me Loose.” Fabian never replied back. Like Manny he was into hip hop, not doo wop.

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Most if not all of the players on the Amherst College lacrosse team remained loyal to former coach Jon Thompson after he was fired, and that meant trouble for new coach Rashad Devoe. Last fall, Devoe was reportedly dining with a few of the players near several members of the women’s lacrosse team. “Is that your midnight snack?” asked Devoe.

The sexist remark was reported to the administration. “Social media on NESCAC lax has perked up a bunch of late around the idea that Amherst will soon be looking for a new coach again,” reports the father of a former player. “The idiots at the school hired a mediator to sit in between the players and the coaches. According to the parent I know the mediator was blown away by the players’ comments. Only a stupid-a** liberal arts college would think that hiring a mediator is the way for a team and its coaches to develop a relationship. The head coach’s summer camp announcement on Twitter was taken down shortly thereafter.” Stay tuned.

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SQUIBBERS: A memorial service was held on Sunday in Plymouth, N.H., for former Deerfield Academy AD Dave Hagerman who coached the Big Green to the 1984 New England prep school hockey title. Five local kids were on that team — Greenfield’s Brian Fusonie and Tim Hanley, Buckland’s Paul Amstein, Turners Falls’ Brian Jurek and Bernardston’s Doug Weiss. Hagerman passed away on Feb. 11 in Hanover, N.H. … Not sure which is harder to believe, that former UMass defenseman Cale Makar has been in 35 Stanley Cup playoff games or that he’s racked up 31 points in those games. … Listening to Felger and Mazz spin their conspiracy theory of why the Blue Jays hit 13 home runs in two games off the Red Sox was more fun than hearing the professorial Alex Speier preach why their cheating theory just ain’t so. … Mike Florio and Chris Simms speculated the Pats could have trouble trading Stephon Gilmore. “You don’t want to pay a guy a bunch of money for the years he starts to descend,” said Florio. “I don’t see the Patriots budging and paying him big time money,” added Simms. … Dodgers reliever David Price pitched two-thirds of an inning to get a win on Monday. Price has made 16 appearances, walked seven and fanned 24 in 21⅔ innings. …The Dolphins might revisit trading for Deshaun Watson after Tua Tagovailoa tossed five interceptions during competitive passing drills on Monday … Word has it that Buck Showalter will replace Aaron Boone if the Yankees aren’t in contention by the All-Star break. …. Amherst native Mike Hixon already owns one Olympic medal in diving and just qualified to try for another at the Tokyo Olympics. Hixon was coached by his mother Mandy Hixon while she was the diving coach at UMass. Her husband Dave was the highly successful hoops coach at Amherst College. … Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy on the decision by UMass to put statues of Marcus Camby and John Calipari outside the Mullins Center: “Camby admitted lying to police [and] Coach Cal is the only coach in NCAA history to have two Final Four appearances erased. Now the school is dedicating statues to the wrongdoers.” … Cleveland and Tampa Bay— both on track to make the playoffs — have the lowest and fifth-lowest payrolls in baseball according to spotrac.com, while half of the 10 teams with the highest payroll — the Yankees, Phillies, Angels, Nationals and Cardinals — are struggling to stay around .500. … Bruins fans don’t like being reminded of the trade that sent Dougie Hamilton to the Flames for first, second and third round picks that turned out to be Zachary Senyshyn, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Jeremy Lauzon. … A Minnesota woman is documenting her hike on the Appalachian Trail for nearly 20,000 social media followers. Great, but isn’t the great outdoors about getting away from social media? … Sparky Lyle’s “Bronx Zoo” includes this tale of pitching for Red Sox manager Eddie Popowski in 1969: “Eddie Popowski was one of those managers who would give a baseball to the elevator operator and tell him, “whoever comes in after two o’clock in the morning, have them sign it.”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached at chipjet95@yahoo.com


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