Jan. 19, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Entering the 2012 campaign, his fifth season as a full-time starter for the San Diego Padres, Chase Headley had established himself as a solid player. And for the first half of the year he continued along that same path.
Then he exploded.
Always confident that there was another level for his game to rise to, it finally clicked in for Headley after the All-Star break last season when he hit .308 with 23 home runs and 73 RBIs.
The former Vol would go on to lead the National League with 115 RBIs, finish fifth in the NL MVP race, be named the NL Breakout Hitter of the Year and take home the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards for NL third basemen.
"It was definitely a good feeling," Headley said. "There was part of me that knew I could do more. I had done it in the minor leagues and I had done it before, I just hadn't put it all together in the big leagues. You know it is in there, but until you actually do it you wonder if it is ever going to happen. To put it all together and really put forth the type of season I thought I was capable of was a great feeling."
On Saturday, he returned to Rocky Top where he starred for the Big Orange from 2004-05. Headley, who helped lead the Vols to the 2005 College World Series and is one of just five academic All-Americans in UT history, was honored at mid-court during the Tennessee men's basketball game against Mississippi State.
"It was amazing," Headley said. "This is a special place to me, it always will be. It still feels like home and to come back out here and get the reception from the crowd was an amazing feeling. It gives me goose bumps just thinking about it."
With Spring Training just around the corner, the Fountain, Colo., native's focus has already turned to the upcoming season. Even after his breakout campaign, he knows that the only way to build off the momentum he created is to continue working as hard, or harder, than he did before.
"It is just building on last year," Headley said. "As a player, you have to forget about what happened last year. You move on. You play the year out and the next year you have to start over. I built up a lot of confidence last year and learned how to do some things that I needed to learn, but it all starts at zero starting this year. It is a lot of hard work, a lot of studying, a lot of watching film and just trying to prepare myself to have a good season."