By Rob Tota
As Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores Little League makes its second-straight appearance in the Little League Baseball® World Series, it is fortunate to have both the league president and assistant coach in the dugout with them.
Melissa Henderson is finishing up her first year as the League President, having served on the league’s Board of Directors for the past four years. She has an abundance of responsibilities including the league’s governance, constitution, rules and media relations.
One notable aspect to her current agenda is building a concession stand in the home park, which is city owned.
“We have to work with the city, so I’m kind of the face of the league to get that built,” she said.
Melissa is no stranger to the behind-the-scenes aspects to the league.
“My dad was on the Board for 25 years,” she said, “I’ve been around baseball and the league for a very long time.”
The Henderson family’s legacy with Little League® does not end with Melissa, as her son Ryan is on this year’s team representing Michigan in the Little League World Series. There aren’t many Little Leaguers who can call one of their coaches “mom,” but Mrs. Henderson said it hasn’t been an issue.
“I’ve been with this core group since they were eight,” she said. “He (Ryan) gets over it, he really just learned to go with it.”
Despite being a small suburban town of fewer than 16,000 resident, Grosse Pointe Woods has seen an immense amount of success in the Great Lakes Region, appearing in last year’s Little League World Series in addition to the 1979 and 2013 Series.
Current players JJ Shoeck and Brennan Hill are especially familiar with the team’s past success, with Shoeck’s older brother Tommy playing on last year’s team and Hill’s father, Jason, coaching that same team. This is the third son Mr. Hill has sent to Williamsport, with his son Tyler (2013) and Drew (2017) also appearing on the Little League’s biggest stage.
Mrs. Henderson made sure to include how valuable these roots to their past teams have been, talking about how Mr. Hill’s insights as a manager and father have been particularly rewarding.
“He actually been immensely helpful,” she said. “He’s given us all kinds of advice.”
Michigan won its first game in Williamsport against Idaho Friday afternoon, in a thrilling walk-off victory that saw them overcome a four-run deficit to win, 5-4. Mrs. Henderson thinks the team will benefit from the win in such a high-pressure game.
“I think it helps that our nerves are settled,” she said. “Now we can relax and play baseball.”