Miguelangelo Hernandez, Augusta University. Featured photo of Augusta University baseball coach Chris Howell, left, with Rich Henderson at the AU baseball field by Michael Holahan
It’s the reason Henderson has pledged $250,000 toward a new baseball locker room. He has been a sponsor on and off for AU Athletics for almost 10 years because he wanted to be involved and to do his part to support local student-athletes.
Henderson said he met Howell at an athletics event and walked away with a good first impression. As the years have gone on, the two developed a strong friendship.
“Over the years we’ve built a more personal relationship and I’ve been able to kind of see his passion up close. He’s good for Augusta,” said Henderson, who is president and CEO of Jani-King of Augusta, a commercial cleaning company supporting over 200 franchisees servicing thousands of customers across the Southeast. “The one thing I’m most impressed with about Howell is that I don’t think I’ve ever once heard him say, ‘I can’t do well because I don’t have the resources.’ He’s a winner inside and he just needs the resources.”
Howell said they used Jani-King to help clean the locker rooms when the program was using Lake Olmstead Stadium. Howell said the relationship has continued to blossom over the past couple years and that Henderson has turned into a great friend.
“He’s a guy that that sees our passion and sees my drive and what we’re trying to do here. It’s a big help,” Howell said. “He’s a big supporter of the Jaguars and he’s been there since Day One. He’s a big part of what we do here.”
Henderson said as a sponsor of the Peach Belt Conference, he was able to go to other colleges and see their facilities. He said he would often think, “Why can’t we have that here?” Over the years, he would pick Howell’s brain about what he needed to help him succeed. Howell’s focus always turned toward his players and their opportunities in college.
“I could have written another check, but I got to thinking, ‘What else can we do? What could I do that would make an impact?’” Henderson asked. “As I was looking into this, it was my understanding that the college was not asking for someone to step up and do all of it. They’re basically saying, ‘Hey, we need a partner. We need help.’ Again, I’m a fan of college baseball, I’m a fan of building something from the ground up, and I’m a fan of coach and Augusta. I want this to be impactful.”
Henderson also met new Director of Athletics Ryan Erlacher and was impressed with his vision and his desire for nothing but success for his programs. Henderson said after talking with Erlacher, it made the decision easier.
“We’re incredibly grateful for Mr. Henderson’s generous gift toward our baseball program. A new locker room will give our student-athletes a home they can be proud of and a space they deserve,” Erlacher said. “We truly appreciate Mr. Henderson’s support over the years and this gift will move us closer to achieving our goal of creating one of the best baseball facilities in the country.”