Wyatt at the bat

The fourth-year third baseman on the baseball team discusses his 36 best friends, hitting home runs, getting drilled by 90 mph fastballs, and why the New York Yankees are ‘God’s team.’

Wyatt Henseler sits in the bleachers at Meiklejohn Stadium while wearing his white uniform and leaning on a bat.

In only three-and-a-third seasons of play (his first-year season was condensed by COVID), fourth-year third baseman Wyatt Henseler of the baseball team has rewritten the Penn and Ivy League record books.

Henseler, from Emmaus, Pennsylvania, is the conference’s all-time leader in home runs and RBIs, and he also holds the school single-season record for home runs (19), hits (72), at bats (215), runs (57), total bases (142), and RBIs (63).

At present, he leads the Ivy League in runs (54), hits (62), slugging percentage (.784), and home runs (19), and ranks second in on-base percentage (.481), third in RBIs (47), third in hit by pitches (13), and fourth in batting average (.371).

Wyatt Henseler tosses a ball in the air while on the field at Meiklejohn Stadium

The Quakers have sailed in seldom charted waters during the Henseler era. They were a 6-8 team during the COVID-shortened 2021 season and improved to 33-15 in 2022. Last season, the Red & Blue finished 34-16, won the Ivy League regular season and Tournament championship, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 28 years.

On Friday, May 17, at 3 p.m., the baseball team will begin their quest to capture their second consecutive Ivy League Tournament championship. The fourth-seeded Quakers (20-22, 11-10 in Ivy League) will clash with top-seeded Columbia (26-15, 17-4 in Ivy League) at the Lions’ Robertson Field at Satow Stadium in New York City. No. 2 seed Princeton and No. 3 seed Cornell will battle in the corresponding semifinal. The Tournament winner will earn an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Penn Today trekked to Tommy Lasorda Field at Meiklejohn Stadium to chat with Henseler, a political science major in the School of Arts & Sciences, about his 36 best friends, hitting home runs, getting drilled by 90 mph fastballs, and why the New York Yankees are “God’s team.” 

Wyatt Henseler prepares to swing at a pitch during a game.
Image: Penn Athletics

When did you start playing baseball? Did you start out with T-ball? I actually didn’t do T-ball. My dad was always against it, so I started playing as soon as we could go to coach-pitch. I probably started playing around 6ish and then just stuck with it.

Why was your dad against T-ball? Did he think it was unnatural or unrealistic? He just didn’t think it was real baseball.

What do you enjoy about playing baseball? Definitely the team aspect of it. It’s very individual in a way, where moments are defined by an individual thing here and there, like a pitcher dictating the whole pace of the game or an individual at bat, but at the same time, there’s a lot of comradery. I love the whole team aspect, the locker room, team lifts, pregame. Everything involved with just being with 36 other best friends has been pretty awesome.

Henseler watches the ball after connecting on a pitch.
Image: Penn Athletics

Am I correct that you started out as a pitcher in high school? That is correct. My freshman year, we were really senior-heavy. I made varsity as a freshman as a pitcher and I was supposed to play JV as a hitter, and eventually do both. I was going to be the closer on my team my freshman year. The first game of the year, we had a game against Reading High School; we were away. I was going to close out the bottom of the ninth. My [batting] spot was going to be open and my coaches were like, ‘Why don’t you get an at bat?’ I ended up hitting a home run in that inning and they let me hit the rest of the year. Eventually, the pitching started winding down and the hitting started picking up.

I hear you’re a Yankees fan, as am I. We might be the only Pennsylvanians who are Yankees fans. How did you become a fan of the Yanks? It’s kind of been a family thing passed down from my dad and grandfather. My family for a long time has been from North Jersey so the Yankees became the hot team to watch. My dad and my grandfather didn’t watch a lot of sports. They were always convinced that the Yankees were ‘God’s team,’ so my household always rooted for the Yanks.

I like that, God’s team. Forget America’s team, the Yankees are God’s team. Exactly. Exactly.

Wyatt Henseler prepares to throw the ball during a game.
Image: Penn Athletics

You are the Ivy League’s all-time leader in home runs. Is hitting home runs something that you purposely try to do? I think it became a part of my game unintentionally. I’ve always been taught to play the game hard and to try to be a gap-to-gap hitter and hit for average, and I think once I got a little stronger, the game got a little faster. I think, naturally, the ball just started to take off a little bit. It kind of became just a part of the process. It was never something I really tried to do, it’s just something that comes as a result of doing things the right way and trying to hit the ball hard every time.

I read an interview you did with the Daily Pennsylvanian where you talked about how you used to be scared of the ball when you were little, but now you lead the team in hit by pitches. That’s one of my favorite baseball stories with my dad. When I was younger, probably like 7 or 8, just starting to play the game, I was always scared that I was going to get hit with the ball, either by the pitcher hitting me, or a ground ball hitting me, or something like that. So my dad took my brother and I out in the backyard and just plunked us with some balls—not aggressively or anything, but just to show us that it didn’t hurt. It toughened us up a lot. Growing up that way, I think every team I’ve ever been on, I’ve led them in hit by pitches just because I grew up not moving. It’s definitely something that’s been a part of my game, and I think it’s a very unselfish way to play. I know that your teammates always really appreciate it. It’s a morale booster when a guy is willing to wear one for the team. Any way I can find my way on base, I want to be a part of it. If that means getting plunked with a 90-mile-per-hour fastball, then it is what it is.

Wyatt Henseler and a team jump and bash arms after a big play.
Image: Penn Athletics

It doesn’t hurt? It hurts for a sec. Pain is temporary…Yeah, it hurts. I have a good one here from the other day [shows a nasty bruise on his leg]. I get hit all the time. You just kind of get used to it.

You hit a lot of home runs; do you ever get thrown at intentionally? Do they throw at hitters intentionally in college? I like to think no. I don’t think so. I don’t think anyone has that much animosity built up against anyone else. I think we’re all just super competitive and sometimes the ball just misses. I don’t think it’s ever intentional.

Wyatt Henseler fields a ball at third base during a game.
Image: Penn Athletics

Every time someone asks you about your home run or hitting records, you seem to quickly pivot to talking about how you’re focused on team success and not individual accolades. As your Penn career winds down, are you able to appreciate your individual accomplishments? Yes. Our hitting coach is [Coach Mike Santello]. We spent a ton of time crafting my swing and my baseball approach. He knows I don’t like looking at accolades; I really do just care about winning. He’s definitely settled me into the fact that I can appreciate some of the things I’ve worked for, and I’m super grateful for every opportunity and accolade I’ve been given. It really is a testament to the process here that the coaches have started, and all the other coaches and people that have been a part of my life that have pushed me and supported me.

Next year you are using your extra year of eligibility to play at Texas A&M. Is your goal to one day make it to the big leagues? I think every baseball player would be lying if they said they didn’t want to play in the big leagues one day. I do, and it’s something I’m really working for. But I do really love college baseball and I don’t want to feel like I’m missing a step, so I’m really enjoying my time here and I’m not trying think ahead too much because this is my first time really having a senior year and it’s been awesome. I really enjoy my time at Penn. I’m just trying to finish things out here the right way and enjoy every moment. And if that opportunity comes, then I’ll be ready to make that decision.

Wyatt Henseler sits in the dugout below a PENN sign.