Kyle Hendricks ’12 signs record breaking contract extension

by Baily Deeter | 4/1/19 2:20am

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Pitcher Kyle Hendricks ’12 agreed to a four-year, $55.5 million contract extension with the Chicago Cubs in late March.

Beverly Schaefer/Courtesy of the Dartmouth Athletics Department

Dartmouth and the Ivy League are better known for their academics than for their sports teams. However, that’s not to say that stellar athletes haven’t catalyzed their professional careers in the friendly confines of Hanover or the rest of the conference. Kyle Hendricks ’12 is the most recent Ivy Leaguer from the college to reach Major League Baseball stardom.

Hendricks, a starting pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, recently made headlines by signing a lucrative, four-year, $55.5 million extension with the Chicago Cubs. This is believed to be the richest contract any Ivy League athlete has ever signed in any professional sport, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. 

Hendricks has emerged onto the national scene in the past few years with his impressive performance on the mound. He has a shiny career ERA of 3.07, including a masterful 2016 season in which he went 16-8 with a league-leading 2.13 ERA, en route to a third place finish in Cy Young Award voting. To top off the season, Hendricks started the clinching World Series game and gave up just one earned run through 4.2 innings to help give the Cubs their first World Series championship in 108 years.

Before Hendricks was a World Series champion and one of baseball’s brightest stars, he was a high school superstar out of Newport Beach, California. Dartmouth head coach Bob Whalen said he immediately knew that he wanted to recruit Hendricks upon seeing him pitch for the first time, and that he was thrilled when Hendricks ultimately decided to commit to Dartmouth. 

“I liked so many different aspects about him,” Whalen said. “One of the most impactful impressions of him was his makeup and what he was like as a young man. It’s always been important to him to be really good and understand what he needed to do to get better.” 

Even after he was drafted out of high school by the Los Angeles Angels, Hendricks committed to Dartmouth. It’s common for baseball players to go straight to the minor leagues out of high school in hopes of reaching the MLB sooner, but Hendricks decided to take the college route because of the long-term benefits. Whalen said he believes that was a wise choice, and one that generally makes more sense for baseball prospects. 

“The majority of kids [who] sign out of high school, whether it be [because of performance or injury], don’t stay long enough,” Whalen said. “[Hendricks’ family] knew that if he was good enough, he’d get the chance. If you [want] the opportunity to play pro ball, you’ll get it from Dartmouth.” 

Additionally, getting an education was incredibly important to Hendricks, who was always a stellar student. Economics professor Bruce Sacerdote had Hendricks in his ECON 49 class and praised Hendricks’ work in the class. 

“I keep hoping TV interviewers will ask about his work on the impact of trade agreements on foreign direct investment,” Sacerdote said, referencing the final paper Hendricks wrote for the class. “Dartmouth is and should be extremely proud of his accomplishments. He has a great work ethic and brings passion to everything that he does.” 

Hendricks thrived in the classroom and on the field at Dartmouth, posting a 2.47 ERA in his junior year before the Texas Rangers drafted him in the eighth round. The Cubs traded for him in 2012 and called him up to the majors in 2014 ­— and the rest is history. 

According to MLB.com, the extension will keep Hendricks under contract through the 2023 or 2024 season. To be fair, Hendricks’ $55.5 million extension wasn’t as lucrative as Mike Trout’s 12-year, $430 million deal or Bryce Harper’s $330 million contract over 13 years, but he is a star nonetheless. His career ERA of 3.07 ranks behind only well-known aces Clayton Kershaw, Jacob deGrom, Chris Sale and Madison Bumgarner among active pitchers with at least 100 career starts, according to MLB.com. 

The extension is impressive in its own right and a clear testament to Whalen’s point that a player who is talented enough to play professional baseball will get the opportunity to do so regardless of the route they take. 

Hendricks is not the only Dartmouth baseball player to make the major leagues and is one of many to play professional baseball to some degree after playing at Dartmouth. According to Whalen, six former Dartmouth pitchers are currently playing professional baseball. Baseball Almanac records 32 Dartmouth alumni as having played professional baseball, including former All-Star catcher and current Los Angeles Angels manager Brad Ausmus ’91 and Red Rolfe ’31, a four-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion for the Yankees after whom the Dartmouth baseball field is named. 

While Hendricks is not the only example of a Dartmouth player succeeding at the professional level, he probably is the best pitcher. For the current players, especially co-captain and ace Cole O’Connor ’19, it certainly helps to have such a strong role model thriving at the professional level. 

“Kyle exemplifies professionalism on and off the field,” O’Connor said. “Anyone who pitches should respect how he competes day in and day out. He plays the game the right way.” 

Whalen agreed, attesting to the gratification he gets from watching Hendricks thrive. 

“Everyone has a sense of pride with him,” Whalen said. “He’s genuinely one of the nicest people you’re going to meet, and you want to see nice people have success. He’s been over-the-top loyal to our program.” 

Now that the financial aspect has been settled, Hendricks can focus on adding to his impressive resume on the field. It is uncertain whether he will ever win a second World Series or whether he will win his first Cy Young award, but, according to O’Connor, one thing is for certain. 

“He deserves every penny of that contract,” he said.