On this day, likely the last chapter in a story that started in Venezuela 19 years ago, we celebrate Félix Hernández and the legacy he will leave behind as Seattle’s King.
I spent most of Félix’s illustrious career well out of his jurisdiction, however. My parents weren’t fond of Washington’s notorious rain, so, in 2008, we nosedived straight towards the equator, without leaving the United States, of course. New Mexico was a barren wasteland of professional sports, only offering the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes and an NBA D-League team that wound up moving to Ohio a few years later, so my rooting interests remained with Seattle sports teams, particularly the Seahawks and Mariners, through and through.
But even as technology was starting to transition into what it’s become today, it was hard to watch your favorite sports teams without paying a pretty penny. My parents were neither wealthy nor poor, but it was hard to swing the hefty charges cable companies demanded for premium sports packages. And the Internet in our neighborhood was, let’s say, subpar, so streaming wasn’t an option either. Needless to say, I didn’t get to see many of Félix’s starts as he hit his prime.
For all of his 5+ fWAR seasons, I may have witnessed a good portion of two or three. Still, that’s a lot of really good baseball missed; roughly 500 innings worth, or more. For me, I saw Félix grow into one of the greatest pitchers in Seattle Mariners history through the words of those who followed the team. Félix was like Luke Skywalker to me—a legend, or rather, a king in a fairytale. Someone you hear stories of and hope to one day see for yourself.
I’m grateful to have caught the final years of Félix’s dominance. His performance in the 2014 season finale is my most favorite—and heartbreaking—memory I have of Félix. He shut down a 98-win Angels team to maintain the Mariners’ hopes of forcing a tiebreaker with Oakland, but the Rangers failed to beat to the stumbling Athletics, and thus, the M’s were eliminated.
As the Oakland score became official, the Mariners were still playing a game, and Félix Hernandez was still pitching his heart out, all for naught. Unfortunately, I haven’t been around for many of the Mariners’ greatest moments, so when Lloyd McClendon came out to get Félix in the top of the sixth inning of that game, that was the only moment the Mariners have ever made me cry joyful tears.
I truly felt proud of that Mariners’ team, but most importantly the game—and year—Félix had to put them in that position. Félix was truly the heart and soul of this organization for many years, and that really proved true on that day. For once, I could hold my head high as a Mariners fan, with hope for what could become the following season.
Of course, my poor, ignorant soul was fooled by the Mariners once more, and Félix’s postseason aspirations were stomped out, as always. Unfortunately, it was for good this time and the decline began. I’ve become critical of Félix over the last few years, because it pains me to see him break down and fail to adapt. I hate what’s become of him over the last few years because of how little the rest of his organization tried to capitalize on his prime.
But that’s not what Félix’s legacy is, or should be. Félix was a pitcher that kept Seattle on the baseball map despite its darkest days. He chose to stay loyal to a city and a fanbase that was, and always will be, loyal to him. Félix wanted to win, more than anything, but he wanted to do it in Seattle, no matter what.
And for someone who didn’t live in Washington for the majority of Félix’s career, that still meant the world to me. Thank you, Félix.