ASHEVILLE — Music has always been a passion for Bryce Hensley, but baseball has always come first.
The 24-year-old Asheville native and Reynolds graduate was entering his third year of minor league baseball with the Kansas City Royals — earning a roster spot on the Advanced A Wilmington Blue Rocks — before the spread of coronavirus ended the season before it could begin.
Hensley, who played college baseball at UNC Greensboro, moved back to Asheville in March and picked up a construction job while he tried to stay in shape for a hopeful return to baseball.
He also picked up his guitar and started writing music.
Hensley had played gigs in dive bars during college, but pursuing a career in professional baseball had left little time for music over the last few years.
“This was the first time I’ve had on my hands to try and really do something with my music,” Hensley said. “Live slowed down enough, so I had to take the opportunity to jump in and try.”
On June 10, he posted a video on Instagram of a country song he and writing partner Matt Gorman — a baseball player at Lipscomb University — had written together. He got a call from his agent the next day.
“He called me and said ‘what the hell is this?'” Hensley said. “He was like ‘you should probably tell me about this. I think we could do something with this.'”
Hensley’s agent starting making contacts in the music business while Hensley started working on his first single, “Growin’ Up in Me” which he recorded at Sedgwick Studios in Flat Rock. It was released on all music platforms last week.
Hensley said he was inspired by his time back home and the reality that sets in when a dream is on hold.
“Playing baseball, you travel the country and it never feels like a real job,” Hensley said. “Being back here, working a 9-to-5, I started feeling old, real fast. My friend was about to pop the question to his girlfriend and everyone else seems to be getting married. I’m about to turn 25 and I can feel it now.”
Hensley said he plans to release two more songs over the next month and hopes to be able to pursue a music career as well as his big league dreams.
“Baseball is one of those things that I’ve worked my whole life for, and I’m not stopping until it stops being fun or someone tells me I can’t play anymore,” Hensley said. “But music is also something I love. I hope I can be successful with both things.”
David Thompson is an award-winning reporter for the Citizen Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at 828-231-1747, or on Twitter at @acthshuddle.