July 2, 2014: Enrique was playing in just his second Major League game. At the plate, he said to himself, "Whatever you do, just don't smile. Look cool. Act like you've been here before. And remember: don't smile."
Enrique caught hold of the pitch and sent it floating toward left field. He wasn't sure if it would catch the right-hand side of the Crawford boxes, so he ran with purpose. But it landed in the stands for his first big league homer.
Why wouldn't he want to smile? "Because you're going to look like a rookie," Hernandez said. His family had flown in from Puerto Rico for his two home games against the Mariners, along with his girlfriend from California and his host family from Corpus Christi. They could smile. Then again, they weren't the one rounding second.
The whirlwind of Hernandez's past 24 hours only blurred more with the homer that night. Two days before, Triple-A Oklahoma City's manager Tony DeFrancesco faked a post-game team meeting to deliver the news to Hernandez. The next morning, he was on a plane and arrived at Minute Maid Park in time for warmups while his family was flying in from Puerto Rico. Hernandez came in during the seventh inning of a slowly moving, double-digit loss for Houston. His first career hit was an RBI double that bounced into the bullpen in right-center field.
He notched another single in the ninth to complete his first ever big league game. He gave both balls to his parents, signed some autographs, hugged his family, and just like that, his debut was done. Sleeping, however, wouldn't be so easy. He's only gotten two hours of it in the last two days. The first night: "I slept like 30 minutes. I was excited, nervous, anxious . . . everything but sad."
And the second night, after the 2-for-2 debut: "It was one of those things, like this is happening, this is real life. In a way, I wasn't trying to make that day end, make it last the longest." (Vernon -mlb.com- 7/2/14)
Hernández is the oldest child of Enrique Hernández Sr., a scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
September 12, 2016: Hernandez made a guest appearance on the TV soap, "The Bold and the Beautiful."
Feb 23, 2017: At age 12, Enrique Hernandez thought he had killed his father.
While hitting baseballs with his dad, Enrique Sr., he smashed a line drive right back up the middle. The ball struck his father in the chest. The child's first instinct was not to check on his injured father—it was to find his phone. "I panicked," Hernandez said. "I called my mom and said, 'I killed my dad. I hit him in the chest.'"
It turned out Hernandez's father was fine, and their daily baseball sessions continued. Enrique Sr., who would go on to serve as a scout for clubs such as the Pittsburgh Pirates, had seen his dream pass him by. He didn't want the same to happen to his son. Enrique Sr. had hoped to play in the big leagues, but the draft didn't reach Puerto Rico at the time. Then a car accident ruined any chance of him signing as a free agent. When Enrique, known as Kiké, was born, the elder Hernandez saw a chance for the son to live out the father's dream.
"He always had that chip on his shoulder, and I guess he saw that potential in me—that he could live his dream through my eyes," Kiké said. The after-school tradition began early in Hernandez's life, and not always to his liking. "At the beginning, it was a hassle for me," he said. "I kind of felt obligated because I didn't know how to say no to my dad. After that, we created a habit, and I was really looking forward to it every day. I couldn't wait to get out of school and bond with my dad."
The passion and work ethic grew as Hernandez did, and their competitions got closer. Each day after practice, the two would race and Enrique Sr. would always win. Finally, when Hernandez was 13, he beat his dad in the race. "I still remember that day," he recalled. "I trash-talked him so much."
Hernandez's career would blossom. At 18, he was selected in the sixth round of the Draft by the Astros. Hernandez would crack the big leagues in 2014, and after a quick stop in Miami, he became a fan favorite with the Dodgers. Hernandez found a niche in the Majors as a utility player, along with a reputation for goofy antics such as donning a banana suit in the clubhouse.
While his dad doesn't share the same passion for "clown stuff," he does bond with his son through baseball. Hernandez said about 75 to 80 percent of their conversations revolve around baseball. The rest of the time, they would usually sit together in awkward silence.
Their conversations took a turn outside of the sport last season when Enrique Sr. was diagnosed with cancer. Being away from his father during that time was difficult for Hernandez, especially when his mom sent a photo of his father with a newly shaved head. "It was a reality check," Hernandez said. In a sign of solidarity, Hernandez, who at the time sported long locks, shaved his head bald. Four days later, on Father's Day, Hernandez launched a game-tying pinch-hit home run in a 2-1 victory over the Brewers.
Like the Dodgers that day, Enrique Sr. would win his battle. He received a bone marrow transplant that June, and in October, he learned his cancer was in remission. Now, the father has a new lease on life and the son has a new outlook on baseball, the game they love. "My mind can rest in peace off the field and I can just focus on baseball," Hernandez said. (F Ardaya - MLB.com - Feb 23, 2017)
When Hernandez was called up to play Triple A ball he had his manager, Tony DeFrancesco, convinced for a whole month that he could not speak English. The manager had even assigned him a translator for the month. (Intentional Talk interview-May 30, 2017)
Father's Day 2017 will be the best one ever for Enrique "Kiké" Hernandez III, because Enrique Hernandez II is still alive to celebrate it. In December 2015, Kiké's father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer related to leukemia. In November 2016, it was determined the cancer was in remission.
The devastating emotion and physical strain patients and families endure when cancer strikes, Kiké said, only hits home when it hits your home. Being a Major Leaguer based in Los Angeles, he couldn't take his father to the doctor or accompany his mother to Tampa for her husband's bone marrow surgery.
In August 2016, his parents came to Los Angeles for Kiké's birthday. And for the first time, he saw the toll taken on his father by radiation and chemotherapy. "Seeing my dad after he lost all that weight and lost his hair, pictures don't do justice to what a cancer patient goes through," he said. "To see him in person, to see how much his body changed when they came for my birthday, it was shocking, eye-opening."
While his father battled cancer, Kiké struggled at the plate, even against lef-handed pitching for the first time in his career. "I felt I had the pressure to perform because I needed my Dad to stay positive to kick cancer's butt," he said. "If I don't perform, my dad's going to get frustrated and my dad's going to get sad, it's going to eat him up. By putting that much pressure on myself, I started failing. Every time I had an 0-for-4, I thought I was going to get sent down, I felt I was letting my dad down. So many things started snowballing.
"I lost a lot of sleep last year, a lot of nights just because not knowing what's going on with my Dad, my confidence was nowhere to be found. Thinking, 'Can I actually have a career as a baseball player and play a full career?' All of it went through my mind. At the same time, 'Am I going to have a Dad? Will he see my kids grow up?'"
With news of remission, "It was like, 'OK, we can breathe again,'" he said. "'Back to normal, go on with life now. Everything's good now.'" Hernandez felt that this experience helped him to mature. (Gurnick - mlb.com - 6/15/17)
Kiké's father's passion was always baseball. He coached Kiké until his son's senior year in high school. That's when Dad's good friend and Kiké's godfather, retired Yankees legend Jorge Posada, mentored him to be a scout. Dad has worked part-time for the Pirates the last five years.
"All of my baseball," said Kiké, "I get from him. When I was 4, he took me to a baseball camp and I said I didn't want to go back because it was too hot. But he would play in a semi-pro league and I would go, and soon I wanted to play, too. When I was 6, he saw my potential. Since then, my life has been nothing but baseball, and he's been right by my side. During the World Baseball Classic, he missed almost a month of work to be with me."
Kiké's slugging against righthanders as well. The body clearly is linked to the mind.
"I learned so much in 2016," he said. "It opened a side of me I didn't know was there. Now I know what every family goes through with something like this. I got the chance to go to a kids hospital, a cancer center. I used to think that was a job for a veteran, more well-known guys. Just going one time and seeing how just by showing up I can change the day for a kid and everything we take for granted." (Gurnick - mlb.com - 6/15/17)
July 24, 2018: Hernandez came in to pitch in a 4-4 game in the 16th inning against the Phillies. He gave up a walk-off three-run home run to Plouffe. That made him the first position player in MLB history to allow a walk-off home run.
Nov. 2018: Hernandez was on the MLB roster for the Japan All-Star Series with Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB).
2018: Hernandez married Mariana Vicente during the offseason.
Jan. 18, 2021: Kike's wife, Mariana gave birth to their daughter, Penelope.
Dec 2018: Kike Hernandez has had a fantastic 2018. He had the best season of his career as the super utility man for the Dodgers and played in the World Series for the second straight year. The magic of the year didn't stop at the end of the baseball season, however.
After getting engaged earlier this year, Hernandez got married in the offseason and, most recently, honeymooned in Thailand. In addition to taking in the sights around Thailand, Hernandez and his wife spent some quality time with a couple elephants and even gave them a shower. It's good to see that Hernandez isn't taking Chase Utley's retirement too hard and is already out there looking for and making new friends. (E Chesterton - MLB.com - Dec 17, 2018)
Enrique is never one to shy from the spotlight, so it only makes sense that he appeared on an episode of the soap opera "The Bold and the Beautiful," in 2016. Hernández was tasked with helping a singer prepare for her rendition of "The National Anthem," something he's pretty used to hearing at his day job.
"It was during one of our days off and I said, ‘Sure, why not?’" Hernandez said. "Since I was a little kid, I always wanted to be a baseball player and my plan B was to be an actor. People were sure I was kidding." (Clair - mlb.com - 5/17/2020)
Kiké's MLB debut
In 2014, Kiké was a member of the Astros organization — a club coming off a 2013 season in which it lost 111 games. Midway through 2014, the Astros were still stumbling — sitting in last place in the AL West.
Hernández wasn’t a top 20 prospect in the organization, but six seasons into his professional career the versatile 22-year-old was finally breaking through. After going 3-for-5 with two doubles, a home run and four RBI on June 30 — raising his batting average to .337 and OPS to .887. Hernández’s manager with the Triple-A Oklahoma City RedHawks Tony DeFrancesco called a team meeting. First, he announced that Domingo Santana was being called up to the Majors. Then, he announced Hernández was also going up.
“I’m from Puerto Rico, and it was like 2:00 a.m. when the game finished, and my parents saw the shortstop for the Astros got optioned, so they were up and they were freaking out,” Hernández recalled in 2015 for a Dodger Insider story. “When I finally got the call, then I gave them the call, my parents went nuts. Them and my two sisters went nuts and had a party at 2:00 in the morning. Six hours later, I was on a plane to Houston.”
The Astros made a series of moves on July 1, 2014. They called up Hernández, Santana and left-handed pitcher Kevin Chapman from Triple-A. They optioned shortstop Jonathan Villar to OKC, placed outfielder Dexter Fowler on the injured list, and designated right-handed pitcher Jerome Williams for assignment.
The Astros were getting pounded 10–1 after six innings by the Seattle Mariners in front of a sparse crowd at Minute Maid Park. In the top of the seventh, the Astros sat starting second baseman José Altuve and inserted Hernández. The Mariners added two more runs in the top of the seventh to make it 12-1.
In the bottom of the seventh, Hernández stepped to the plate for his first big league at-bat. He had two plate appearances in the game. In the seventh inning, he hit a ground-rule double off Dominic Leone and drove in a run. In the top of the ninth, he hit a single off Brandon Maurer.
In 2015, Hernández was a first-time Dodger. He made his introduction to Dodger fans at Dodgers FanFest on Feb. 5. In the Dodgers’ interview room that day, Hernández did a Q&A with fans and was asked about his Major League debut.
“In the sixth or seventh inning, I went to the batting cage with (teammate) Jesús Guzmán. I was putting a ball on a tee for him. Then, all of a sudden, the Mariners rally, and in less than five minutes the game is 10–1,” Hernandez said. “So Guzmán says, ‘Kiké, you might go in.’
“My heart started racing. I ran into the dugout. My manager, Bo Porter, said, ‘Hey, uh, new guy, you’re going into second base.’ I was, ‘OK, let’s do this.’ Then the next inning I’m up to hit. Everything happened so quick that I wasn’t nervous. So I hit a double, and then I got to second base. I look on the Jumbotron, and my parents are jumping like little kids, and I can see the emotions on their faces. It meant the world to me. I was trying to keep it cool. I was thinking, ‘I don’t want people to think I’m all excited.’ But I was freaking out inside. Willie Bloomquist was playing second base, and he came up from second base and said, ‘Is that your first big league hit?’ I was like, ‘Uh, yeah.’ He goes, ‘Dude, smile.’”
Hernández started the next day for the Astros at DH. In the fifth inning, he hit his first Major League homer — a solo shot off Chris Young.
Thirty days after his Major League debut, the Astros traded Hernández, pitcher Jarred Cosart and Minor Leaguer Austin Wates to the Marlins for outfielder Jake Marisnick, infielder Colin Moran, pitcher Francis Martes and a draft pick that turned out to be outfielder Daz Cameron.
Houston later spun Moran and Cameron in deals that would net them Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander, respectively. Hernández appeared in 18 games for Miami in 2014. Then on Dec. 11, 2014, the Marlins traded him, Austin Barnes, Chris Hatcher and Andrew Heaney to the Dodgers for Dee Gordon, Dan Haren and Miguel Rojas. The Dodgers traded Heaney that day for Howie Kendrick.
At the time, Gordon was a popular figure in LA coming off his first All-Star season — a year in which he led the Majors in stolen bases and triples.
Since 2015, Gordon has a 9.7 WAR. Hernández has an 8.2 WAR. He has been a popular figure, one of baseball’s most versatile players and has had big moments as a member of the Dodgers. (Cary Osborne - June 29, 2020)
2014-20 Seasons: Hernandez spent those six seasons with the Dodgers, slashing .240/.312/.425 with 68 home runs and 213 RBI. During the pandemic-shortened campaign, he slashed .230/.270/4.10 with five home runs and 20 RBI.
Sept. 7, 2021: When you're a Major League baseball player who is forced to watch his team play while being quarantined in a Cleveland hotel room what do you do? For Kiké Hernandez, the answer was simple.
"I FaceTimed a few of (the other members of the quarantined Red Sox)," Hernandez said before his first game back after suffering through COVID-19. "At the time, we didn't know what's going to happen, if I was able to going to leave at 10 days or whatnot. So (clubhouse manager Tommy (McLaughlin), you know, he sent me my bag with some of my gear in case I had to spend more than 10 days in Cleveland to find somewhere to go hit or whatever. Didn't end up happening because I left at day 10. But I just pretended like I was at the game. I’d put on my pants, put on my top, my hat, and I’d wear a mask just if I was in the dugout and I would start FaceTiming guys, try to lighten up the mood. And it was, it was cool to see how engaged everybody was watching the games, you know, they weren't just shutting it down and doing their own thing. Everybody was engaged. As not cool as it was, it was kind of cool." (Rob Bradford)
Enrique “Kiké” Hernández and Christian Vázquez have known each other since they were kids and Little League teammates in Puerto Rico.
June 2009: Hernandez signed with the Astros after they chose him in the 6th round, out of American Military Academy in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico.
July 31, 2014: The Marlins sent CF Jake Marisnick, 3B Colin Moran, and RHP Francis Martes to the Astros; acquiring Cosart, Hernandez, and OF Austin Wates.
December 11, 2014: The Dodgers traded 2B Dee Gordon, RHP Dan Haren, SS Miguel Rojas, and cash to the Miami Marlins; they received LHP Andrew Heaney, RHP Chris Hatcher, 2B Enrique Hernandez, and C Austin Barnes.
Jan 12, 2018: Kike and the Dodgers avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year deal for $1.6 million.
Jan 10, 2020: Kike and the Dodgers avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $5.9 million contract.
Oct 28, 2020: Kike elected free agency.
- Jan. 23, 2021: Kike agreed to a two-year, $14 million deal with the the Red Sox.
|DOB:||8/24/1991||Agent:||Rep 1 Baseball|
|Birth City:||San Juan, P.R.|
|Draft:||Astros #6 - 2009 - Out of high school (Puerto Rico)|
Kike has power in his hands and arms that allow him to make hard contact consistently. He has super bat speed.
Oct 19, 2017: Hernandez had a three-homer, seven-RBI performance in the Dodgers' 11-1 win at Wrigley Field in the decisive Game 5 of the NLCS. He helped put his team in its first World Series since 1988.
And he put himself in some extremely rare statistical company, becoming just the 10th player to go deep three times in a postseason game (Reggie Jackson territory). And the very first player to drive in that many runs in an LCS game. He was the first to do both in any postseason game.
2020 Improvements: Hernández said he was “messing around” with different swing mechanics on the workout day before the National League division series last October when something clicked, an adjustment that better synchronized his upper body with his legs. He noticed an immediate difference when he “started hitting the ball really far” in batting practice.
Buoyed by a strong performance in a five-game playoff loss to the Washington Nationals, when he went three for seven (.429) with a homer, a double and three RBIs in three games, Hernández continued to refine his swing with Dodgers hitting coach Brant Brown in Arizona over the winter. (Mike Digovanna - 2/27, 2020)
2020 Season: While the defensive versatility Hernández possesses is a clear benefit - he can also hit, particularly against lefties. In 893 career plate appearances against lefties, Hernández has an .820 OPS.
Hernández belted a career-high 21 homers for the Dodgers in 2018, and came back with 17 more in 2019.
In 690 career games, Hernández has a slash line of .240/.313/.425 with 71 homers and 227 RBIs. (I Browne - MLB.com - Jan 21, 2021)
Oct. 8, 2021: In Game 3 of the ALDS, Hernández stroked a first-inning single and knocked a third-inning RBI single off Rays starter Drew Rasmussen. Then he connected with a Pete Fairbanks fastball for his second homer of the postseason. Hernández’s blast came off the bat at 109.8 mph and traveled a projected 424 feet, according to Statcast. The home run was Hernández’s seventh consecutive at-bat with a hit, breaking a Red Sox record of six that had been shared by David Ortiz (2013) and Hanley Ramirez (2017), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The postseason record is eight straight at-bats with a hit, shared by Reggie Jackson (1977-78), Billy Hatcher (1990) and Miguel Cairo (2001-02).Hernández is the first player to collect eight hits across a two-game span in a single postseason. The Yankees’ Derek Jeter had eight hits in a two-game span across the 2005-06 postseasons.
Additionally, Hernández has tied the Red Sox postseason record for extra-base hits in a single series, with five. The mark is shared by Carl Yastrzemski (1967 World Series), John Valentin (1999 ALDS), and Kevin Youkilis twice (2007 ALCS and 2008 ALCS).
- As of the start of the 2022 season, Enrique's career Major League stats were: .242 batting average, 91 home runs and 557 hits with 287 RBI in 2,299 at-bats.
Kike has played every position except pitcher, catcher, and first base.
He has true power in his arm, with sharp throws. He has quick-twitch athleticism that is electric.
From 2015-2019 with the Dodgers, Kike played 2B, SS, 3B, and all three outfield positions.
- By 2020, Hernandez was the best defender at second base in the National League.
- Jan 21, 2021: Defensively, Hernández has split his career starts the following way: 11 at first base, 132 at second base, 56 at shortstop, 14 at third base, 60 in left, 128 in center and 35 in right.
- 2021 Season: Kiké Hernández didn’t even want to play center field when the 2021 season began. Crazy, right?
Given how boisterous he’s been while playing defense in the American League Championship Series, especially when making some incredibly flashy plays, it’s hard to believe that Hernández had pause at the idea of playing there regularly six months ago.
Second base was the gig he agreed to when he signed with Boston last offseason, and given that he would finally get an everyday opportunity -- something that eluded him in six seasons with the Dodgers -- he had lofty ambitions.
“At first, I wasn't quote-unquote ‘thrilled’ with the fact that I was playing center field every day,” Hernández told MLB.com. “People have goals and stuff like that, and one of my goals coming into the season was thinking that I was finally going to get a chance to play second base every day. I was like, ‘This might be my chance to win a Gold Glove over there.’ But also, the fact that I've never played outfield every day before, and my legs were starting to get tired and things like that.”
Thanks to Hernández’s willingness and work ethic, the Red Sox have plugged the massive defensive void left by Jackie Bradley Jr., one of the Majors’ best when he was here, and Hernández has found a home -- not just geographically in Boston, but positionally, as the anchor of the Red Sox outfield.
“We had one of the best defensively in 2018 and '19, and he is still great -- Jackie,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “This kid, [Hernández], is up there with them, with the best of the best defensively, and we are very proud of him.”
This story begins with a reluctant Hernández and an uncertain Cora. So, let’s start there:
When camp opened, Cora said he was wrong about two things: 1) Hernández would be the regular second baseman, and 2) if Hernández were to play the outfield, he’d profile better in left given the roster construction; Alex Verdugo’s arm was better tailored for center.
But things changed quickly. Christian Arroyo emerged and warranted everyday playing time, and his defense at second was above average. Given that Hernández was the Dodgers’ most versatile weapon en route to the 2020 World Series title, and that he could play all over, Boston began deploying him in center.
“It was eye-opening,” Cora said. “That first step is amazing. The instincts, the arm, the decisions, the communication -- we can keep going on and on.”
But Hernández had to quickly overcome the pause he had at the outset.
“I understood that it made our team better,” Hernández said. “It gave us a better chance to win, and that's all I want. I want to win, and that’s all I know now. I embraced it at first, and then, it became a blast.”
It wasn’t just the transition, but the venue, that presented such a challenge. Fenway Park is a hitter’s haven and a center fielder’s nightmare with its quirky dimensions. To Hernández's right sits the Green Monster and an endless amount of trajectories that balls can take off its 37-foot façade. To his left sit the bullpens, separated from the playing surface by a five-foot fence that one can easily tumble over. Directly behind him is the right-center triangle, where any ball that drops in is typically a guaranteed triple.
Hernández said that such dimensions may play a factor in his route running, which is the only metric he ranks poorly -- and one he wants to improve.
“My first step, I’m always moving,” Hernández said. “I'm trying to be moving before the ball gets hit. I'm just creating momentum, and I guess, based on my sabermetrics, my routes are never super efficient. But to me, the most important thing is my first step and my reaction, because I'm probably in the bottom percentile of center fielder speed, so I know I depend big time on my first step and my jump. I always think that if I have a good jump, a good first step, I can make up for a not-so-great route.”
In this analytical age, Hernández keeps a keen eye on his metrics. But he digests them simplistically -- what’s good and what’s bad? And it’s been mostly good.
Hernández’s defensive metrics, 2021 (rank among center fielders)
Outs above average: 5 (seventh)
5-star catches (catch probability 25% or lower): 5 (first)
Success rate added to catches: 4% (fourth)
Defensive runs saved: 14 (third)
Ultimate zone rating: 7.4 (fifth)
“The biggest thing, for me, is taking my infield approach to the outfield,” Hernández said. “As a middle infielder, you learn how to read the swing, the contact point, and something that I do is I study what our pitchers like to throw based on where the catcher is setting up, and if they execute that pitch based on what pitch type and pitch location, what type of contact they get. That helps me. That allows me to anticipate where the ball is going to be hit before [it's hit], just by looking at the catcher -- where he's setting up -- or just tracking the trajectory of the pitch. It gives me an idea of where the pitch is going to be hit.”
When looking at Hernández’s flashiest plays this year, nearly all of them involve his heaves to the infield. Hernández averaged 89.8 mph on max-effort throws (the top 10% of a player's sample) in the regular season, the 15th-best mark in the Majors. He also had a 97.5 mph throw on a sacrifice fly in Game 1 that came up just short, a velocity that matched Chris Sale’s fastest pitch of that game.
“You ask anybody that's played with me, they can all attest to my arm,” Hernández said. “It’s just, when you don't play on an everyday basis, there's a lot of things that you don't get to show. And it’s not like I was never playing in L.A., but … if that day that I played there was not a chance to show off the arm or whatever it was, then people didn't know about it.”
And therein lies what Hernández set out to do this season, beyond just his glove -- prove himself.
“Everything that I’m doing has always been there, man,” he said. “I think that I've progressed as my career has gone on. I've gotten better at a lot of things, but I'm also getting to know myself a lot better as a player now that I'm playing more, and I think that's been the biggest difference.” (D Kramer - MLB.com - Oct 21, 2021)
August 31-September 28, 2015: Hernandez was on the D.L. with a strained left hamstring.
November 4, 2015: Hernandez underwent an "arthroscopic debridement" of his right shoulder and was expected to be fully recovered by Spring Training.
June 29-July 31, 2016: Hernandez was placed on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation of the left rib cage.
July 24, 2019: Hernandez left after injuring his left hand on an awkward swing-and-miss in a fourth-inning at-bat. X-rays were negative.
July 29-Aug 20, 2019: Hernandez was on the IL with left hand sprain. The club kept him active until they could find an emergency replacement.
May 7-18, 2021: Kike was on the IL with right hammy strain.
- Aug 27-Sept 7, 2021: Kike was on the IL.