Hernandez grew up the youngest among a sister and two brothers, one of whom, Moises, became a pitcher in the Braves organization. Their father, Felix Sr., was a truck driver; their mother, Miriam, a homemaker. They were middle class, unlike Mariano Rivera and Sammy Sosa, who grew up fashioning gloves from milk cartons. "My father always gave to me," Felix Jr. recalls.
His walls, meanwhile, were adorned with posters of fellow Venezuelan hurler Freddy Garcia, then of the Mariners. Felix, to this day, wears the same #34 on his back that Garcia wore from 1998 to midway through the 2004 season with the Mariners.
"I was like 11 years old when I first saw him pitch," said Felix of his fellow Venezuelan. "He threw hard and I really liked the way he pitched. I wanted to be like that. He would go after hitters." Hernandez developed into the same kind of pitcher.
"When I signed with the Mariners, they called me 'Little Freddy,'" Felix said. "They said I even looked like him."
- Felix's mother had to crack down on his boyhood penchant for shooting hoops at the playground during school hours and told him his best hope for the future was honing his baseball talent.
"He was terrible as a child," she says with a laugh. "He skipped school all the time to play basketball. I was the one who told him, 'You're going to play baseball because it's what I want you to do.' When he was 13, he was really small. I thought he'd never grow. Then after 14 or 15, he got really big."
Hernandez admits he'd never really envisioned himself as a baseball player. He played shortstop in Little League and could hit the ball farther than most of the other children. But it was on the basketball court where he really excelled.
"I wanted to make it to the NBA," he says. "I was real good, too, man. Really good. I had the moves."
But his arm began attracting plenty of baseball attention. By 12, he was pitching on squads traveling outside the city. A couple of years later, at a tournament in Maracaibo, he was spotted by a Mariners bird-dog scout named Luis Fuenmayor.
"I went on a weight-training program, and by the time I was 15, I could throw 94," Hernandez says.
Felix played on an amateur team named Flor Amarillo (the Yellow Flowers), which played games only on Thursdays. With his 16th birthday (and therefore signing eligibility) approaching during the spring of 2002, he began being pursued by the Yankees, Braves, Rockies and Mariners.
Seattle won out with a $710,000 bonus offer in large part because of the trust that scouts Bob Engle and Pedro Avila (a Venezuelan himself) had built with the young pitcher. Avila first discovered Hernandez when he was 14 years old.
"They gave me the most attention," Hernandez says of Mariners officials. "They came almost every day. They treated me well. They're good people. I don't like the Yankees. I never did. I don't know why. The Yankees are too big. It's not the people. It's the team." (Alan Schwarz-Baseball America-3/24/05).
Felix will have to keep an eye on his weight, but his work ethic is good, so that should never really be a problem.
Hernandez has the words "FELIX EL CARTELUA," roughly translated "Felix the Badass" embroidered on his glove.
In 2003, at the age of 17, Hernandez dominated the Northwest League. He led the league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts for most of the summer, before allowing four earned runs over five innings in his final start before a promotion to low Class A Wisconsin. "He more or less dominated every time he took the mound," Tri-City manager Ron Gideon said.
Before 2004 spring training, Baseball America rated Hernandez as the #1 prospect in the Mariners organization.
It’s easy to get overexcited about young pitchers, but Hernandez has the legitimate potential to become the best pitcher ever developed by the Mariners. (Baseball America -3/04)
Before 2005 spring training, the magazine again had Felix ranked as the best prospect in the Seattle system. They also said, Hernandez "has become unquestionably the best pitching prospect in baseball."
In 2004, at age 18, Hernandez turned in the most dominating season for a player that age since Dwight Gooden was Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year in 1983. He allowed more than three earned runs in just four of his 25 starts, and he was named the top prospect in both the high Class A California and Double-A Texas leagues, just as he had been in the short-season Northwest League in 2003. He was the youngest player in both circuits, just as he had been in the NWL.
Hernandez also worked a perfect inning at the Futures Game, highlighted by an effortless strikeout of the Mets’ David Wright.
On August 4, 2005, at age 19, Hernandez made his Major League debut at Detroit's Comerica Park. He became the youngest pitcher to start his first Major League game since Britt Burns took the mound for the White Sox in 1978.
In 2005, Felix was named the Pacific Coast League Rookie of the Year and Pitcher of the Year.
Felix and his wife, Mariella, have a daughter, Mia, that was born late in the 2005 season. And on February 27, 2009, their second child, and first son, Abraham Jeremy, was born.
Mariella says she first saw Felix when he was 14 years old, pitching in a neighborhood ballpark. She would watch him from a window in her ramshackle home.
"When I was playing on the field, I'd see her in her house," Hernandez says.
Mariella eventually left the house and made her way down to the ballpark.
"I went to the stands to watch him," she says. "He was very shy. He didn't talk to anybody. I was the one who asked him out on our first date."
They had that date on a nearby beach and have been together ever since. She gave birth to their daughter right around the time Hernandez was first called up by the Mariners late in the 2005 season.
During the off-season, the three of them lived with Felix's parents in Valencia, Venezuela. His father bought the family's two-level home in 1983 with his savings as a truck driver and—despite some remodeling—little about it has changed. Life here isn't much different for Hernandez now than it was in his early teens. The simplicity of it all would shock many fans in the United States.
While he drives a Ford Explorer, it's not all that uncommon in this oil-rich country, where public transit is woefully inefficient and gasoline costs about 12 cents a gallon. Hernandez bought his own two-story home about a half-hour's drive away, and Mariella, Mia, and Felix moved into it in December 2006. (Geoff Baker-Seattle Times-11/26/06)
Hernandez has an interesting favorite meal: beans and spaghetti. He also likes arepas—pastry shells filled with meat and vegetables.
Felix has two dogs, a pit bull terrier named "Oriole" and a feisty, fist-sized shitsu dubbed "King."
- Every time Hernandez crosses the first-base or third-base line to start an inning, he does a little sideways hop over the chalk line.
And why does he do this?
"Superstition," he said. "I started doing it a long time ago, in the first professional game I ever pitched. I pitched a good game and have been doing it ever since."
The superstition goes a bit further. At the end of each inning, Hernandez walks to the Mariners' dugout, making sure not to step on the chalk line. He just steps over it.
The advantage Hernandez holds over most Major League hurlers is he has more good pitches to choose from than nearly anyone in the game. While seven straight seasons of 30-plus starts and 190-plus innings have taken a few mph off his fastball, he's more than made up for that by perfecting a wicked changeup, a quality slider and a nasty curve.
"He's got the best combined four pitches that I've ever caught," said veteran backstop Kelly Shoppach. "That's the great luxury he has, because not every pitcher has every pitch every night. But he's fortunate where if something isn't working, he's got three others to choose from that are just as good."
Flash back to his new Ferrari here (the shiny Ferrari Italia he tweeted a picture of shortly after signing that deal with the message that it was "time to take it to another level" with a new season and new deal.). For Hernandez, the new car joins a fleet of luxury vehicles that provides more options than most would dare dream of possessing. He said he has eight cars now, his favorite being a Nissan GT-R. "That's what I drive the most," he said. "And the Porsche [Cayenne]."
So is that the same way Hernandez chooses from his array of pitches? Is it a gut thing, selecting one beauty over another depending on how he feels at the moment? Nope, not at all. There is nothing whimsical about his pitch selection.
"I have a plan for every hitter before I even go to the mound," Hernandez said. "So I never change my mind. Because I can't think on the mound. If I'm thinking on the mound, it's not going to be good."
Hernandez celebrated his February 2013 $175 million contract by buying a shiny Ferrari Italia.
April 1, 2013: When Hernandez made his sixth Opening Day start, he was just the third Major League pitcher since 1920 to make that many Opening Day debuts before the age of 27.
2013 Opening Day: Felix presented former Mariners catcher John Jaso with the perfect gift: a shiny Rolex for catching King Felix's perfecto the previous season against the Rays. Engraved on the back of the watch are the words ''Perfect Game'' and the date—''8/15/12.''
For the 29-year-old Jaso, in his first season with Oakland after an offseason trade, catching the game and being a part of history meant so much in his third season as a Major League regular.
Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre has been thrown out of a game three times in his career. One of those came while going up against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez during one of their trash-talking confrontations.
"He was talking smack," Beltre said. "He said he was going to strike me out three times. Well, he struck me out on a pitch that was in the dirt. Everybody could see it bounce, but the umpire called it a strike. It was a rookie umpire.
"So I yelled at Felix, 'Next time, bring that up and I'll hit it out.' I never turned and faced the umpire. But he thought I was yelling at him, so he threw me out of the game."
The umpire probably didn't realize at the time that he was witnessing one of baseball's longest-running and most-amusing "feuds" in the big leagues, one that has all the subtlety of a sandlot game in Diamond Hill, White Settlement or Flower Mound.
But unlike most opponents, they keep up the steady flow of smack during the course of a game. In 2012 in Seattle, Hernandez yelled that he would "dance on the mound" when he struck out Beltre with his changeup. Beltre responded by screaming from the Rangers dugout he would just "spit" on the pitch. The two former Mariners teammates love it.
"It starts months before we play, weeks before we play, the day before the game," Beltre said. "We're always talking smack, sending each other text messages and stuff."
Beltre has one home run against Felix (as of July 2013). It came on Sept. 18, 2011, in the Rangers' 3-0 victory.
"Yeah, one home run," Hernandez said. "It was an 0-2 count, I was trying to go in and he crushed that ball. He was yelling at me the whole way around the base, the whole time. I could not look at him, because I was going to start laughing. But when I get him out, I get him back, for sure. If he hits a fly ball, I just yell pretty loud. And he'll say, 'C'mon man.' It's awesome."
Their friendship goes back to 2005. Beltre had just signed a five-year contract to play for the Mariners and Hernandez was an 18-year-old highly regarded rookie. Beltre was coming off his best season with the Dodgers, having led the National League in home runs.
"I first met him at my first spring training in 2005," Hernandez said. "He was a great guy, a great teammate. He's as tough a guy as I've ever seen playing. He could be hurt with anything and he'd still be in the lineup, playing unbelievable defense. He's just a great guy.
"It was Jose Lopez, Yuni [Betancourt] and I, we just always hung out with Belly. And Belly was always talking to us about what we should do and what we weren't supposed to do. He was a guy who helped a lot."
The "feud" really got started when Beltre left the Mariners to play for the Red Sox. Beltre then signed a six-year deal with the Rangers in 2011, putting him in the same division as Hernandez. Now he has the potential of facing Hernandez four to six times a year, depending on the state of the Mariners rotation. (Cash Kruth - 7/02/13)
The wife of Carlos Peguero was accused of making $180,000 in unauthorized purchases with a debit card belonging to another person in the Mariners organization, federal court documents showed.
Citing an anonymous source familiar with the investigation, The Seattle Times reported Saturday that the unnamed victims described in court documents are star pitcherFelix Hernandezand his wife. A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office declined to comment beyond what was available in court filings, and a team spokesman did not return a call seeking comment.
Maria Jacqueline Peguero was charged with three counts of wire fraud, according to the federal court documents. An agent with the U.S. Secret Service says in the court filings that Peguero made 60 unauthorized purchases in 2012 from the upscale retailer Saks Fifth Avenue.
Maria Jacqueline Peguero, 22, was arrested in the case but is now free on bond. Her court-appointed attorney did not return a call seeking comment Saturday.
The court documents do not identify the two people who owned the debit card in the case but the filings say one of them is a co-worker of Carlos Peguero. Peguero has been with the Mariners organization for several years, playing some games with the Seattle club but spending most of this past year with the team's Triple-A affiliate in Tacoma.
One of the debit card owners—Hernandez's wife, according to The Seattle Times—has a limited understanding of the English language and described to investigators that Maria Jacqueline Peguero had helped her to make online purchases in May 2012. She also told authorities that Peguero had asked whether she reviewed any of her bills, and she had responded that she did not usually review bills because the finances of the two victims were managed by a third party.
Authorities say Peguero had items shipped to her own apartment in Fife. Representatives from Saks first began scrutinizing the purchases because the billing addresses and shipping addresses did not match, according to court records.
Carlos Peguero is not charged in the case and told authorities that his wife had told him that her brother worked for Saks.
Part of the investigation focused on images that Maria Jacqueline Peguero had posted on her Twitter account. Investigators said the images showed her wearing clothes that matched items purchased online from Saks, including a leather purse that cost $1,750.
November 4, 2013: A fire that damaged the Bellevue home of Hernandez started in the laundry room. Damage was estimated at $250,000.
Felix and his wife, Sandra, were in Napa, Calif., at the time. His agent, Wil Polidor, says their two children were at a mall with their nanny and the pitcher's mother-in-law. The house was uninhabitable.
King County public records show the 5,100-square-foot, five-bedroom, four-bath house was built in 2009 and is valued at $2.85 million.
2014: Hernandez's only homer was an opposite-field grand slam off Johan Santana.
Pete Fortune has been the home clubhouse assistant, and with the Mariners for over a quarter-century. And he says that Hernandez is "easily the coolest player I've ever been around."
Felix takes the clubhouse guys to Seahawks games and hosts them for barbecues. When he raised the 12th Man Flag at CenturyLink Field before a Seahawks game in 2011, he took them, not business partners or upper management.
Fortune stood next to Hernandez as the crowd roared and the ground shook.
"That's how he is," Fortune says. "He includes us in a lot of stuff that other guys wouldn't. Not that they need to. But he does." (Greg Bishop - Sports Illustrated - 9/15/2014)
Hernandez is known as"Fifi" to his teammates.
In 2014, Hernandez was named the AL's top pitcher as part of The Sporting News AL All-Star team selected by a vote of baseball executives, becoming the first Mariners player honored since 2010.
Also: The Players Choice Awards voted King Felix the AL Outstanding Pitcher of the Year for 2014.
2015 All-Star: Tattooed into the right forearm of Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, directly above the all-caps phrase "FEARLESS," is a line of five stars, each filled in with the year he was selected for the All-Star Game: "'09," "'11," "'12," "'13," "14."
Sitting with his 6-year-old son, Jeremy, on his lap, Hernandez was debating where to place the one to honor his 2015 invitation. He placed his arm on the table, looked around, and then he found it—a small patch of untouched skin, just below his elbow.
"There," Hernandez said. "I think that'll work."
Hernandez may run out of room soon.
"Nah," Hernandez scoffed, "I have plenty of space on my body. I'll put them on my chest or something."
Hernandez's sixth trip to the All-Star Game is the most in franchise history. (Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com|July 13th, 2015)
Mariners' King Felix rules in fashion. Felix has more than 1,000 pairs of shoes, three different tailors to construct his made-to-order suits, and fancies shirts that cost up to $500 apiece. His haute collection is so large that it cannot be held in the multiple closets of his homes in Seattle and his native Venezuela. And he loves every single item.
"I will tell you this, the one in my room is big, but my wife had to make like a different closet down in the garage to fit my clothes," the Mariners' ace said, shaking his head. "We made a couple of closets in the garage. I've got too much stuff."
Hernandez has painstakingly cultivated an eye-catching style over 11 Major League seasons. He isn't afraid of bright, bold colors, prefers body-conscious cuts, and loves everything about European designs. He describes his style simply as different. An exercise in flashy elegance might be a better way to term it, featuring closets overflowing with suits that cost thousands of dollars, shoes in all shades of the rainbow and lots and lots of skinny designer jeans.
"Fashion means a lot to me," he said. "I'm a guy that's always trying to look good and trying to impress."
Hernandez made his Major League debut in 2005, at just 19. When he began receiving Major League paychecks, there was no question what his first major style purchase would be.
"For a man, if you go in a meeting or if you go somewhere and meet people the impact is a watch," he said. "So I was like: 'I need a nice watch.' That's the first thing I bought."
That watch was a Hublot and he now has a collection of about 30 timepieces. And the options to accessorize are vast. For an interview on his style, Felix toyed with three different shirt-and-shoe combos before landing on a casually chic ensemble. He wore black Yves Saint Laurent skinny jeans and a T-shirt with a black and white crocodile print by the same designer. There was no crown for King Felix, only a black New Era baseball cap with a gold winking smiley face.
It was a show-stopping outfit to be sure, but the jewelry he paired with it took his style quotient to another level. A five carat diamond solitaire adorned each ear. One of his four Rolexes, this one with a diamond bezel and $50,000 price tag, was on his left wrist and a custom-made bracelet lay across his right arm. But the star of the jewelry show was a thick rose gold-and-diamond chain with a medallion depicting Jesus, his piercing eyes formed by two flawless diamonds. It has a price tag of $35,000, and Hernandez liked that deal because it came with a pair of matching earrings. He pulled off the trend of high-low fashion perfectly, pairing the pricey ensemble with affordable Timberland boots, left lazily untied. (Krietie Rieken - 2015)
Hernandez had a comfortable upbringing in Venezuela, but certainly wasn't rich. He developed his smart style by poring over magazines, scrolling through Instagram and, of course, getting tips from his wife Sandra. The two, who have been together since age 14, often post shots of themselves on Instagram and Twitter and sometimes include their equally well-dressed children.
A portrait of the clan taken at the All-Star game showed 10-year-old Mia in a pale yellow sundress and Jeremy, 6, in a white blazer and shorts that matched his sister's frock. Hernandez likes to dress his son in miniature versions of his own outfits and his Instagram account is dotted with pictures of the two in matching ensembles. His style certainly befits his royal nickname and is more than appropriate for a man who signed a $175 million contract extension in 2013. It's a style that would fit better on the catwalks of Paris or Milan than in a Major League clubhouse. But he has like-minded teammates in Seattle in Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz, who also delight in pushing the fashion envelope.
Hernandez isn't a small guy by any means, standing a solid 6-foot-3 and weighing 225 pounds. Not exactly the ideal frame for the skinny cuts he adores. But he pulls it off flawlessly with clothes in super luxe fabrics that are tailored to hug his frame. Felix has an endorsement deal with Nike, so naturally he has plenty of tennis shoes, but the All-Stars of his shoe closet are a couple of pairs of colorful $1,700 Christian Louboutin boots and several other pairs of the red-soled stunners bedecked with hundreds of colorful spikes that set him back about $1,495 each.Two of his tailors are in Los Angeles and a third is in Chicago and he visits each of them several times a year. Among his favorite suits are a yellow one, one in green and another in eye-catching purple and black camouflage. In Chicago his pieces are made by The Trunk Club whose custom suits start at $850. But he's certainly not getting the base models.
"My suits are really extravagant, probably the nicest things in my closet," he said.
When he's not in those, he dresses almost exclusively in European designers and is partial to Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton and Gucci and even jetted to Europe one offseason to load up on their wares. He has an affinity with designer backpacks, but when Hernandez dresses up, he carries what he calls a handbag, but what some would refer to as a man-purse or satchel. Another bold choice for someone who makes a living in the ultra-masculine sports world.Hernandez isn't sure if the confidence he's built through success on the mound has contributed to his penchant for bold fashion decisions.
"That's a good question," he said. "I think I'm different when I'm off the field. Because out there I'm mean against the other guys, but like off the field I'm a cool guy." After a pause, he continued. "Like this," he said making a sweeping motion with his arm across his clothing. "This is the real Felix. Out there ... it's just like: 'I'm going to do my job." (Krietie Rieken - 2015)
December 2015: The Mariners announced their Minor League coaching staff, and there are some interesting names in the new mix, including Moises Hernandez—Felix's brother—as the new pitching coach of the Low-A Everett club.
Felix's love of baseball is exceeded only by his love for family. And those two can be seen visually in the tattooed artwork that helps make him one of baseball's most colorful characters.If you've observed the Mariners' ace kiss his wrists then point to the sky after pitching a complete game, there's a simple reason: Just below his right hand on the inside of his wrist he has the name and birth date of his daughter, Mia; he has the same on his left wrist for his son, Jeremy.
Since 2008, Hernandez has continued to add illustrations and reminders of important people and moments in his life, but it often isn't noticeable, hidden underneath the long sleeves he sports for each start. The Aries sign he had inked on the right side of his neck in late 2012 is the only tattoo baseball fans might see during one of Hernandez's starts. For that reason, it required a lengthy discussion with his wife, Sandra.
"She's like, 'Are you sure? Because you always pitch with long sleeves, nobody knows that you've got tattoos,'" Hernandez said. "'So that one there, people are going to know that you're pretty much filled.' She said, 'If you like it, just draw it, put a stencil on it and I'll let you know if it looks good.' She looked and said, 'I think it's gonna look good.' So I did it."
The neck tattoo didn't make for his longest day under the needle—Hernandez said he once fell asleep during an eight-hour session—but it was one of his more painful experiences.
"This one took like three hours because I was like, 'Wait a minute, wait a minute,'" he said, laughing.Hernandez has been slowly building designs on his arms, back and chest since first getting praying hands and a cross tattoo on his upper left arm in 2008. It's a lot of ink to trust to one person, but his go-to artist for years has been Olmy Rosenstock, an Oakland-based tattoo artist who is popular among a few Major League players, including the Rangers' Prince Fielder.
Most of Hernandez's stencils are professionally made, though he has added a couple colorful tattoos with ideas from his family. On his right forearm is an orange flower, the design of which was originally drawn by his daughter.His son's handwriting and love of Legos inspired a "Legos para mi papi" tattoo to the right of his right shoulder blade. Hernandez also has a cross tattoo on his left hand, a heart on his left ring finger and two hearts and an arrow on his back for his wife.
There are fewer illustrated reminders of Hernandez the baseball player, but they have accumulated over the years. There's the crown with a cross and his No. 34 on his right forearm as well as the lion—the king of the jungle for King Felix—on his left forearm. A right arm that has logged more than 2,200 Major League innings reads "FEARLESS" and is complemented by five stars for five of his six All-Star Game selections. Hernandez said a sixth star is on the way this offseason.
"I've got to put '15 here," Hernandez said. "I've got to finish a few, do more stuff."
Hernandez said he will likely continue to add to his right arm and chest, and perhaps add another neck tattoo in the future. Family and All-Star Game appearances will continue to provide inspiration for that ink, but there are achievements, including his Cy Young Award in 2010 and his perfect game from August '12, that won't appear in tattoo form. Some things, he says, are best left as memories.
"My friend was like, 'You should get something for the perfect game,'" Hernandez said. "I was like, 'Eh, not sure.' I don't think I need that." (Andrew Erickson/Jan. 2016)
Felix and Carlos Gonzalez have known each other since the age of 5. The two used to play in youth leagues against each other. Carlos likes to brag that he hit a home run off of Felix at the age of 13.
April 16, 2016: On a day Felix Hernandez walked a career-high-tying six batters, it was his four strikeouts that will be most remembered, as the King pulled into a tie with Hall of Famer Randy Johnson for the Mariners all-time strikeout record in a 3-2 win over the Yankees.
Hernandez notched his 2,162nd career punchout when he got shortstop Didi Gregorius looking for the final out in the fifth inning at Yankee Stadium. He'll have a chance to break the Big Unit's record in his next start in Anaheim. He was also one shy of Jamie Moyer's franchise record of 145 wins.
"It's nice. I wasn't happy with my performance today, but we got the win," Hernandez said. "And to tie Randy, it's an honor to be there with him. He's a great guy, first of all. He taught me a lot when he was in Seattle. We talked a lot. Just to be up there with him, it's an honor."
November 2016: Fernandez announced he will pitch for Venezuela in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
2002: The Mariners signed Felix as a free agent, out of Venezuela.
January 19, 2009: Hernandez and the Mariners agreed to a one-year, $3.8 million contract, avoiding salary arbitration.
January 19, 2010: Felix and the Mariners agreed on a five-year, $78 million contract.
February 7, 2013: Hernandez and the Mariners agreed on a seven-year, $175 million contract, making King Felix the highest paid pitcher in baseball. But before the deal was finalized, a major issue came up: the condition of his pitching elbow.