The Jackson Hammerheads had a tumultuous debut season, to say the least. After a so-so start, the Heads surged to the top of the East, only to fall back out of the penthouse at midseason. Manager Lou Hayes was sidelined by a heart attack in the final month of the season, only to pass away at season’s end. Interim manager Eddie Harris guided the team to a 13-11 record and was dismissed.
Jackson owner Steven Butler wanted a strong hand to guide the team in 2017, and he announced today that he had found his man: Nationals third-base coach Bob Henley.
“We needed someone who could step in right away with a winning team and help us reach the next level,” Butler told reporters. “After extensive conversations with our whiz-kid GM [himself], we came to a unanimous conclusion: Bob is our guy.”
The 43-year-old Henley is a baseball lifer. After a playing career spent mostly in the minors, Henley went into coaching immediately after his retirement. He spent a decade as a minor-league manager and roving instructor before joining the Nats’ big-league staff in 2013.
“I’m all about baseball,” said Henley. “I live, eat, sleep, and breathe baseball. Having this job is like being a kid in a candy store every day.”
A native of Mobile, Alabama, Henley said the chance to manage close to home was appealing. “I never thought I’d be able to have a big-league job so close to my old stomping grounds,” said Henley. “I’m proud as hell to be representing for the Deep South here. I’m as Southern as Moon Pies and magnolias.”
Henley’s aggressive reputation as a coach – with the Nats, he earned the nickname “Sendley” for his wave-‘em-in tendencies – made him appealing to Butler. “I like a gunslinger,” said Butler. “I like a manager who throws caution to the wind and isn’t afraid to make the tough calls. That’s the kind of manager that’s going to help us win a title.”
“My mama always said I was a pepper-pot,” said Henley. “I guess that never left me. That’s how I’ve managed to make it as far as I have.”
Henley plans to bring that same spirit to Jackson. “I want to see us playing hard, balls to the well,” the new manager said. “I’m not gonna ride the guys, at least not at first. But they’ll get the message soon enough. If they’re playing hard and winning, I’ll be their best friend. If they’re slacking off and losing, I’ll be their worst enemy. But I don’t expect I’ll have to do that. I think we know what we have to do. Let’s win some games and have a good time doing it.”
Henley has not announced the rest of his staff, or whether he plans to retain any of last year’s coaches. “I’m still picking out curtains,” said Henley. “Y’all will have to get back to me on coaches and the rest of that.”