At the ripe old age of 30, Matt Henson is the baby of the 2016 class of the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame. As a matter of fact, when Matt is formally inducted at the FCSHOF banquet next April, he will be the youngest member of the esteemed group of 48 athletes, coaches and contributors. Since Matt is still going strong in the baseball coaching profession, it is not far fetched to anticipate that an addition to his plaque may be necessary one day.
Matt Henson is the only child of Danny and Brenda Henson of Morganton. To say that they are proud of their son would be a gross understatement. They have been intimately involved in his athletic career since the beginning and continue to be their son’s biggest fans. The Henson household is full of box after box of news clippings, pictures and other memorabilia serving as a complete chronicle of Matt’s athletic feats.
Brenda remembers buying all types of toys for Matt as a toddler. He would open presents at Christmas and find all sorts of the newest and fanciest toys of the day. After a few minutes of vrooming a new toy car across the floor, Matt would lose interest and begin playing with the closest ball, big balls, small balls, round balls, spheroid balls, any ball that he could bounce, throw against the wall or just toss up and down. Matt just loved to play ball.
Matt began playing organized baseball and football around the age of 5. The Fannin County Recreation Department had, and continues to have, excellent competitive sports programs for kids of all ages. Matt’s dad Danny, an ex-athlete himself, was active in coaching youth teams at the Rec Department and Matt would tag along and participate in whatever sport was in season.
Although his room at home is full of trophies, certificates and medals of all types, arguably the crowning achievement of Matt’s early sports life was playing for the Fannin County 15-16 year old Dizzy Dean baseball team that won the State Championship. This elite team advanced to the Dizzy Dean World Series in Southaven, Mississippi and finished 5th nationally in competition with the finest teams of that age group in the country.
In high school at Fannin County, Matt participated in baseball and basketball from the get-go. He is relatively slight of build at about 5’ 8” and 150 pounds, but packs athletic energy and skill into every inch and ounce of his body. On the baseball diamond, Matt can play anywhere. At Fannin High, he was primarily a shortstop, but also could play wherever needed, even on the pitching mound. He threw two no-hitters during his high school career, one vs Murphy North Carolina and one against Forsyth Central. He was the team captain as a senior and a consistent .300+ hitter throughout high school.
As a basketball player, Matt was a point guard who could also score points. He was quick and could penetrate opposition defenses with seeming ease. In terms of individual accomplishments, he made more headlines on the hardwood than on the baseball diamond. Matt was the captain of the JV team during his freshman season of 1999-2000. He was promoted to the varsity during that year and was a starter for the following three years. He was the basketball team captain as a junior and as a senior and was named as the team Most Valuable Player in 2002-2003. He was selected as the North Georgia Tip-Off Club player of the year for two seasons. He averaged more than 14 points and 2.8 assists per game in 2002-2003.
After his graduation from Fannin County High School in the spring of 2003, Matt signed a baseball scholarship to play at Young Harris College. During his two years at Young Harris, Matt started both seasons, playing 3rd base, shortstop and 2nd base at various times. He had a .361 batting average for the two years. He was named to the all-conference 2nd team in 2004-2005 and to the all-tournament team as a 2nd baseman that same year. He was awarded the Arnold Keys Scholarship from Baseball Instructional Showcase, Inc. at Young Harris in 2004.
For his final two years of collegiate baseball competition, Matt received another scholarship to play at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. He continued his steady play at UNCA for two season, playing in 116 games and earning 112 starts for the Bulldogs. He finished with a career average of .285 with 15 doubles and 64 RBI. His defensive play at shortstop saved many games for UNCA.
Matt added an exclamation point to his playing career at UNCA leading his team to the championship of the Big South Tournament in 2006. He was named to the All-Tournament team as the Bulldogs advanced to play in the NCAA Regional at Clemson, South Carolina. Matt and his teammates were eliminated from the tournament in a thrilling 5-4 loss to Mississippi State. Matt drove in two runs with a single in that contest.
Matt Henson’s love for baseball seems to be as strong now as it was for that 5-year old tossing that round ball up and down. He has been a collegiate coach since his graduation from college and currently is an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for Mars Hill University in North Carolina. He has no plans to do anything but coach baseball as long as there is a spot for him somewhere. With his knowledge, skills and drive, Matt will undoubtedly find himself as the head coach at the college level sooner rather than later.