Felix taking next step as face of franchise
Felix Hernandez chats with Mariners broadcaster Dave Sims during FanFest, then works with a young fan in the bullpen (below). Photos by Ben VanHouten/Mariners.
Two interesting observations from the weekend’s FanFest at Safeco Field, when 12,298 fans enjoyed the chance to meet some Mariners and take their own shots at running the bases, throwing in the bullpen and catching fly balls in the outfield.
One, the Mariners were smart to play up their promising future by inviting four of their top prospects to the event. Dustin Ackley and Michael Pineda figure to be part of the very near-future at Safeco and fans enjoyed getting a chance to meet and learn more about them.
But the club also invited two young infielders — Kyle Seager and Nick Franklin — who are a little further down the pipeline as high draft choices who played Class A ball last year. That was an unusual move for a FanFest, but both showed up as bright and confident youngsters who relished the opportunity.
I’ll have more on those players later in the week, as well as the promising Pineda, so stay tuned to Mariners.com for those stories.
But something else worth noting was the continuing emergence of Felix Hernandez as the face of the franchise. Hernandez always has been a presence because of his ability, obviously. But at 24 and fresh off his Cy Young Award, Hernandez really seems to be gaining comfort and letting his personality emerge.
With four years remaining on his five-year, $78 million deal, Hernandez isn’t taking his money and position for granted. Instead, he’s embracing an increased leadership role and public-relations responsiblity.
This was his first FanFest appearance since ’06 and he literally lit up for the fans. If you have time, check out his Q&A fan session video. It’s really a great glimpse into his personality.
Hernandez said he understands representing the Mariners is part of his job. Clearly, he gets that there’s more to being “The King” than just pitching every fifth day.
“It’s important to me and the team, too,” he said of his offseason appearances. “We’re a family together.”
Hernandez spent part of his offseason back home in Valencia, Venezuela, but he has a full-time residence in Seattle now. That is the house where the Cy Young Trophy will sit on his mantle. That is the house where he and his wife Sandra are raising their young son and daughter.
“I love this city,” Hernandez said. “This is my home.”
For Mariners’ fans who’ve always loved players who truly adopt their town — players like Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson, Jamie Moyer — those have to be welcome words indeed.