SEATTLE (AP) — Félix Hernández walked from the bullpen as Aloe Blacc’s song “The Man,” bellowed through the speakers. He stood on the rubber at the top of the mound, put his arms out to his side and mouthed “this is my house.”
For this night, Hernández once again commanded T-Mobile Park.
“This is not easy for me. Pitching and being there on that mound is way easier than this,” Hernández said, pausing during his speech as part of his induction into the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame on Saturday night.
Hernández became the 11th person to be honored by the franchise but few have a connection that runs as deep. Hernández pitched his entire 15-year career with the Mariners. He made 418 career starts, struck out 2,524 batters and owns the only perfect game in franchise history.
He was saddled with some underachieving teams during his career and his turn on the mound was one of the few reasons to regularly watch or show up.
When Hernández pitched, it was an experience. The yellow-shirted “King’s Court,” that was part of Hernandez’s starts at home starting in 2011 and continued through his last start in 2019 was always present, fans showing up in costumes fit for royalty and chanting “K” every time there was a chance at adding another strikeout to that career total.
Those fans were back in their royal costumes and yellow shirts on Saturday, and broke out a few “K” chants during his ceremony.
“I want to thank the entire Seattle Mariners organization, ownership, and staff. I’m blessed by the opportunity to play my entire career here with the Seattle Mariners,” Hernández said. “You guys took a chance on me in 2002 … out of Venezuela, just 16 years old and you stood by my side ever since.”
While the other members of the Mariners Hall of Fame in attendance — including Ichiro Suzuki, Edgar Martinez and Ken Griffey Jr. — sat in padded folding chairs, Hernández sat on the throne that was always positioned outside the “King’s Court” during his starts on the mound.
Hernández unsuccessfully tried to fight off tears throughout the ceremony. And he received a surprise when former teammate, regular foe and close friend Adrian Beltre made an appearance. The matchups between Beltre and Hernández were among the most entertaining in the game when they faced off as opponents.
“It’s a truly honor. The Mariners, T-Mobile Park and to Seattle, you will always be a part of my heart and my home,” Hernández said.
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