SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Dell Rapids senior, Austin Henry was gearing up for a big senior season, but a major injury has benched Henry for the 2022 season.

Henry’s 2021 baseball season resulted in not one, but two state championships. Henry claimed the Class ‘B’ high school baseball state championship with Dell Rapids in the spring. In the summer, he’d help lead Renner to a Class ‘A’ Legion baseball state title.

In the two seasons, Henry went 54-18. That success caught the state’s attention as Henry became one of the top baseball players in South Dakota.

The offseason saw Henry prepare for his senior season, but that all changed in February of 2022, at the Super 60 Showcase in Chicago.

“I threw a changeup and I really pronated on it or something and I kind of felt like a tug in there. It kind of felt weird,” Henry said.

Henry’s arm continued to hurt in the following weeks, which led to a drive to Dallas, Texas.

“I went down to Keith Meister, who’s one of the best baseball doctors in the country right now,” Henry said. “I got an MRI, I got it back and he said that I had a grade three tear.”

There are three grades when it comes to UCL injuries, with grade three being the worst as a complete ligament tear.

From there, Henry was given a difficult decision to either play his senior season without pitching or have the surgery to prepare for his future in baseball.

“I think that he might’ve been able to swing a bat and play a little bit, but we just decided that the best thing to do, was to get it done right away,” Nate Henry, Austin’s dad, said. “From that point on, you’re looking down the road and I think something like that is a good thing to get out of the way. That’s what we opted to do.”

“They went in there and said that the thing was just loaded with scar tissue and he said that it was actually more scar tissue then what would’ve normally been there, if I would’ve torn it a month ago,” Austin said. “He thought there was something prior to that, which I thought was kind of interesting. My arm always felt fine, but he went in there and said there was a lot of scar tissue in there.”

Tommy John surgery has been related with pitchers that throw high velocity. The recent advancements in UCL studies has made the injury less of a threat.

“People aren’t as scared of Tommy John as they were 15-20 years ago. I think that’s good to hear for me, because back in the day, if this happened, you were done,” Austin said. “I’m very thankful that is not the case now.”

“I knew there had been some good track records recently with it, but when it hits home like that, all of a sudden you jump on Google and you start looking, but that was reassuring,” Nate said. “We did see it is more of a normal procedure and you want to use that word carefully, but it is something that’s common and a lot of pitchers have had it.”

Henry completed the Tommy John surgery eight weeks ago, taking him out of the lineup for nearly a year. While his impact on the field is missing, Austin still finds a way to be a leader.

“He’s almost become a fourth coach. He’s played a lot of baseball and he’s been in a lot of stages. Situationally, we’ll ask him what he’s thinking. He’s been really, really good with the pitchers,” Nate said.

“I don’t want to get too specific, but we’ve incorporated some of the things that he does pretty well. He’s been really helpful, helping out at first base a little bit and helping our pitchers. It’s been really helpful,” Dell Rapids head coach Danny Miller said.

Austin won’t be able to throw a baseball until August and from there, he’ll rehab until February of next year when Henry should be back to 100%.

“I’ve thought about that too. Hopefully, by then I’ll be good to go and if I am good to go, it’s going to be a great feeling, because I know the man upstairs has a plan for me,” Austin said. “I just hope that when that time comes, the plan is to continue playing baseball and if that is, I’m going to be pumped. I’m going to go out and do the best I can for whoever that is.”

“I think when that happens, I think he’ll have learned a lot from the process and I think he’s going to be on the mound excited,” Nate said. “I think he’s going to be out there with a new found respect and perspective that I think life teaches you in its’ own way.”

Henry will head to Wichita State this fall. Initially they thought he would have to redshirt his freshman season, but if the timetable holds up, Henry should be available for the spring of 2023.