Tuesday night, Kyle Hendricks will start for the Chicago Cubs on an historic and urgent night: The Cubs host the New York Mets in their latest game at Wrigley Field in a calendar year . . . ever. A loss to Mets ace Jacob deGrom almost certainly would lead to the demise of a charmed Cubs season.
At this time two years ago, Hendricks was a Triple-A pitcher in a place where one rarely finds postseason stars: Hanover, N.H., attending classes at Dartmouth College.
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Hendricks played three seasons at Dartmouth before turning pro after the Texas Rangers selected him in the eighth round of the 2011 amateur draft. He continued taking classes as his baseball schedule allowed -- thanks in part to Dartmouth's "quarter" calendar -- and spent the fall of 2013 on campus completing his degree.
His classmates having graduated, Hendricks stayed in a single room in New Hampshire Hall and attended Big Green hockey games at Thompson Arena in what spare time he had.
"My good buddy Chris O'Dowd went back at the same time as me," Hendricks told me earlier this year, of the Atlanta Braves minor leaguer. "He was playing pro ball also and had to go back and finish a term. So we were there at the same time and were able to work out together and hang out. I didn't know anybody because it had been (so long). It was tough getting back into the swing of class."
But Hendricks did it, completing his degree in economics with a mathematics minor. The toughest class he took? "Abstract Algebra," he said.
Hendricks would've loved to walk with Dartmouth's graduating class in the spring of 2014, but he was busy working toward his first major-league call-up. (He debuted July 10 last year.) So, Dartmouth officials mailed the diploma to his parents' house.
One day, perhaps, Hendricks will display two cherished possessions side-by-side: the Dartmouth degree and a Cubs World Series ring.