Henry Cheney never had the chance to meet his grandfather, Ben Cheney, who founded the Seattle Studs in 1954.
But he felt like he had after a childhood in Tacoma, Washington, that featured countless stories about his grandfather — and even more about the team he created.
That’s why it felt like he was living out a dream Saturday night at Eck Stadium, when Henry Cheney started in right field for the Seattle Studs in their 5-4 victory over the Cheney Diamond Dawgs in the National Baseball Congress World Series championship game.
Cheney’s night became even more surreal when he was awarded the MVP trophy, a stunning achievement for a player who was batting close to .200 for the summer. But the past week in Wichita saw Cheney lead the Studs with a .429 batting average, and score what would become the game-winning run Saturday in the fifth inning.
“I know my grandpa is up there right now looking down on me and smiling,” Henry Cheney said. “This is for him.”
Sixty-five years after Ben Cheney’s idea to start a semi-professional team in the Seattle area, the Studs have become the powerhouse program its creator always wanted.
The Studs have played in every NBC World Series since 2002, and Saturday’s championship marked the third title in the past seven years and the seventh title-game appearance in the past 12 years.
To have the founder’s grandson be the one to lead the organization to its latest chapter of history was a special sight for manager Barry Aden, who has been with the team since 2001.
“It just adds to the great history of this team and everything the Cheney family has done for us,” Aden said. “Henry actually was struggling a bit coming down here, but he just tore it up. The way he played defense, the way he was never overmatched at the plate, the way he delivered timely hits, it was just an amazing performance.”
No one could appreciate the historical aspect of Saturday’s events more than Brad Cheney, the father of the MVP and the son of the founder.
Since Ben Cheney died in 1971, Brad has had to be the one to tell his son the stories of his father’s legacy.
About how Ben Cheney moved to the Tacoma area dirt poor, yet started his own lumber company and created an empire, then used his riches to bankroll youth sports teams in Washington. Always a baseball fanatic, Cheney owned a sizable chunk of the San Francisco Giants and also helped bring a Triple-A baseball team to Tacoma, where the team still plays in Cheney Stadium to this day.
“But his pride and joy was always the Studs,” Brad Cheney said. “So his grandson playing on his team, this would have been a dream come true. Henry never met his grandfather, but we talk about him a lot. I think (Ben) was here today, he would just hug him and tell him how proud he is of him. Henry has grown up to be a good player, but an even better kid.”
Henry was never sure growing up if he would have the chance to play for the Studs, the top summer baseball club in the Pacific Northwest. His breakthrough came last summer, but he made his biggest impact this summer — more specifically this week.
“I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,” Henry Cheney said. “They put me in really great chances to be successful. It was my turn this week, but I’m sure if we played again next week it would be someone else’s turn.”
But when it mattered the most, it proved to be Henry Cheney’s turn.
And for the senior-to-be at the University of Portland, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
“I was hoping to keep playing ball after this year, but I wasn’t really sure about it,” Henry said. “I think this pretty much sealed the deal with me playing next year.”