Ralph Henriquez was a clubhouse kid. He grew up around major-league locker rooms while his father, Ralph Sr., coached with the Braves and the Yankees. But Henriquez said he's learned more about the game this past year with the Ducks while playing with so many former major-leaguers than he has in any other year he's been around baseball. Henriquez, who last season played for the Mariners' Triple-A affiliate in Tacoma, Wash., was Dontrelle Willis' personal catcher while Willis was with the Ducks until early August. The switch-hitting 26-year-old also has improved at the plate and has been on a tear since mid-July. He went through a stretch in which he recorded at least one hit in 21 of 23 games.
Talk about being Dontrelle Willis' personal catcher while he was here. Do you guys still keep in touch now that he's with the Angels?
"Yeah, we talk, and he's doing well. It just kind of happened that way. We always worked hard together in the bullpens, and in the game it just showed and we got along good . . . From Dontrelle, it was just: Go hard. Every out, every inning, just go hard, you don't know what can happen. Same thing from Ramon [Castro]. I try to watch him and see how he goes about his business and use him as an example of what to do."You played with the Brooklyn Cyclones earlier in your career. Were you excited to come back to the area when you signed with the Ducks?
"Honestly, I had no idea where Long Island was. Obviously coming here, I knew people in New York love baseball and you see how we draw here, so I had a small idea, but I wasn't exactly sure what to expect."
What's your experience with the Ducks been like?
"I don't even know where to start. It's been interesting, not knowing what to expect coming here but being able to play with guys that I watched play, and now I have guys like Bill Hall. I'm talking to him every day to get different ideas of hitting. And having guys like Buddy [Harrelson] on the bench, hearing these guys talk is pretty cool."
Are you stronger hitting righthanded or lefthanded?
"I'm a better righty, naturally, but lately I've been swinging better lefty. I became a switch hitter when I was 12 or 13 years old and just stayed with it. My dad said try this and try that. My dad coached with Atlanta and the Yankees and he had buddies of his who said, 'He might be able to do this,' and I kept working and working and here I am."
What do you remember about growing up around baseball?
"Just being able to be in this environment every day and being able to put on a Braves uniform and take batting practice, it's a pretty surreal feeling. It's so crazy. Right now, I remember the first guy I ever met with the Braves was [Somerset's] Cory Aldridge, and now I'm playing against him . . . I was too young to really pick up so much advice. I just enjoyed it."