Hail to the King, One Last Time
I don’t even know where to start. How do you put the last 14 years into just a few hundred words? Honestly, nothing I can say will ever be enough to convey just how much Felix Hernandez meant to me and Mariners fans everywhere.
It takes a special kind of person to love something when it has never given you anything in return. Felix had absolutely no reason to stay. The team that the Mariners was put around him was never enough.
But when he walked into that press conference all those years ago after signing that extension, it was sealed. Felix Hernandez became more than just a baseball player at that moment. He became ours. He was a member of our family and we were a member of his.
His legacy will go down in history. I have never seen a send-off like the one that I was apart of for Felix last night. This wasn’t just for a player. This was for a friend. With each strikeout, Felix turned to the Kings Court and pointed. “This is for you!” For every ounce of energy he gave to the fans, we gave it right back. You’re damn right I cried. We all did.
The Kings Court has always been the greatest cheering section in baseball and tonight, it showed why. Over 10,000 fans were decked out in Gold for their King. It was the least we could do for someone that gave the city of Seattle everything he had. Felix was special. Sure, great players had passed through the halls of T-Mobile Park before, but none of them had the bond that Felix did with the fans. It all started with that Press Conference.
Loyalty is an understatement. The Mariners Faithful, just like Felix, has had every reason to leave. To just find another team. But, just like Felix, they stayed. For the good times, and for the bad, they’ve been there. Felix Hernandez encapsulates exactly what it means to be a Seattle Mariners fan. The love for the team, the city, and its people knows no bounds.
And maybe that’s why saying goodbye is so hard. He gets it, Felix Hernandez. He understands what it means to be a Seattle Mariner. When he came out to the Kings Court after the game, well, you won’t find a better moment. Everyone could come together over the love of one man who carried an organization on his back for the better part of a decade. And that’s beautiful.
Baseball is an emotional game. The emotions that we saw on the field and in the stands tonight run so much deeper than just baseball. When Kyle Seager cried when Felix cried when we all cried. That one moment will live on forever in Seattle and in the game of baseball. I’ve never experienced anything like it.
In the innings leading up to that final moment, I felt sick. Whether that was because it was finally setting in that we would no longer be able to pencil in Felix Hernandez’s name in the rotation or because of the pure emotion that Felix showed before, after and even during the game, it doesn’t matter. That kind of feeling couldn’t happen for just any baseball player. Only the King.
I knew this was coming. We all did. It was inevitable. Maybe it didn’t have to end this way. The departure of Felix Hernandez from the Seattle Mariners has been a relatively ugly one. Maybe this could have been avoided.
But for one night, none of it mattered. For one night, the city of Seattle got to show their appreciation for the King. It didn’t matter what had happened this season, or even the few before it. It was purely a night to say thank you to an amazing player and friend.
This is likely the last article that I will ever write about Felix Hernandez. I’m so happy that I’ve had the honor to watch him grow into who he is today. I was just nine years old when King Felix toed a major league rubber for the first time.
Felix, I can’t thank you enough for allowing us into your life and giving us hope. You’ve been there for us and I hope you know that we are always here for you. You truly are the King of Seattle, Felix. For all the strikeouts, for all the laughs, for the Perfect Game, for the Cy Young, for tonight. I love you, Felix. Thank you for everything.