When Danny Henriquez first picked up a baseball bat in a Little League game at the age of nine, he immediately knew he wanted to be part of the game commonly referred to as America's favorite pastime. While it wasn't for an on-field performance, little did he know he'd own a World Series ring so early in his professional career.

Henriquez, 25, is a proud alumnus of Saint Leo University. He hails from The Bronx, N.Y. and spent most of his childhood in Port St. Lucie, Fla. His family originally came from the Dominican Republic.

He started off playing in the Coconut Creek Little League in South Florida.

"Growing up in The Bronx, I always admired the Yankees," he recalls. "Watching my role model, Derek Jeter, inspired me to play and love this game. My heritage was also a factor because of how many baseball players come from the Dominican Republic."

Swinging into Academics

A 2011 alumnus of Treasure Coast High School, it was baseball that fittingly led him to enroll at Saint Leo in the fall of 2014.

"I started out at Miami-Dade Community College for a semester before transferring to Lawson State Community College in Alabama where I got my AA and got to play baseball," he says. "I then moved on to Saint Leo."

He immediately knew the campus north of Tampa would be a perfect place for him to call home for a few years.

"Saint Leo is a beautiful campus," he says. "I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it for the first time."

He ultimately decided on earning a bachelor's in sport business. This would allow him to still work in the sports industry if his hopes of a professional baseball playing career wouldn't quite pan out.

Several Saint Leo sport business professors come to mind when he recalls his time in the program.

"Dr. Susan Foster helped me brainstorm what I wanted to do and helped me find my passion and direction. She introduced me to Tyrone Brooks who works in the MLB national office. I'd say she was a big help."

Phil Hatlem was another faculty member whose classes he enjoyed.

He adds that he got to do an apprenticeship with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the hockey club's ticket office.

"I got to work for them in downtown Tampa during my last year at Saint Leo. I handled the tickets for season ticketholders and got lots of great experience there."

Playing for the Saint Leo Lions as a catcher, his introduction to Division II baseball was "eye-opening," he says.

"The Sunshine State Conference is very competitive with a lot of talent on the field. I made some great friends there like Marcelo Parker-Hernandez who pitched to me. We developed a great friendship, and I eventually helped him get into the baseball industry."

He lived on campus for two years while completing his bachelor's degree.

"You feel right at home, and they provide you with some great accommodations."

Tips for Sport Business Majors

Henriquez offers up some advice for prospective Saint Leo sport business students or those in any degree program.

"Depending on your major, reach out to faculty, ask questions and ask for help to see where u fit career-wise or if you don't know what you want to do. I can say that each course has played a role in my career and has helped me put my degree to good use."

Plus, the connections he made through the professors he had have been invaluable.

"Networking is a big thing in any industry, but it's especially important in the sports industry," he says. "The Saint Leo sport business faculty have great connections to people in the field. Also, being in the Tampa area is nice because you've got the Bucs, Lightning and Rays right there. You're also near Orlando with the Magic and the Orlando City soccer team, and you have a lot of spring training teams around. It's a great area to be to get into a sports career."

Sliding into a Career in Sports

The first work experience Henriquez received in sports was assisting with events and fundraising for the Saint Leo baseball team. His next step was attending a Sport Business networking Meetup event.

"When I was there, I met Tyrone Brooks and my mentor, Kimberly Wilcox. She is a well-known entrepreneur who works with lots of MLB players, agents and front office personnel."

Getting his foot in the door, he got a three-month internship with the Detroit Tigers at the club's academy in San Pedro, D.R.

"I helped out in several roles, including assisting with academy operations, handling expenses and travel arrangements and distributing paychecks to players."

Earning a Lifelong Keepsake

His next stop was with the Houston Astros in 2017. He worked out of their minor league facility in West Palm Beach, Fla. Little did he know this would be an incredible season for the Astros.

"I got to do some pretty cool things in this role. I did some on-field work with the TrackMan radar system and the Blast Motion Swing Analyzer. I also handled Canadian visas for many of the major leaguers."

On Nov. 1, 2017, Houston defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7 to capture the World Series. Henriquez was lucky enough to take home a shiny reminder of this historic achievement.

"Receiving a World Series ring was amazing. It's really something I can keep that shows how hard work paid off for us that year. I got to see how an organization develops players from the ground up into a championship club."

This past December, he attended the 2018 baseball winter meetings in Las Vegas, which six Saint Leo sport business students also got to attend. This is when he officially received the ring.

Following his exciting stint with the Astros, he moved back to the Dominican Republic to intern for the MLB office there. He handled pension plans for minor league players and organized showcase events for young talent.

Currently, he is interning with the Miami Marlins. Ironically, Jeter is now one of the team's owners.

"It's hard to meet your idol, and now I get to work for him," he says. "Right now, I'm working on our player rosters and doing some work with analytics."

His ultimate goal is to help young baseball players achieve the same dreams he had of playing in the majors.

"I'd really like to work in the minor leagues and assist with player development. I want to help young men grow into Major League Baseball championship talent. Seeing them reach their full potential is so rewarding, and I'd love to have a full-time position doing this."

Photo credit: The photographs included in this blog article were provided by Danny Henriquez and are used with permission.