He's frequently mentioned as one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball. He definitely has one of the most recognizable nicknames. So it's with much respect and gratitude from The Stew that "King Felix" Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners took a few minutes to do an Answer Man session at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City earlier this week.
Hernandez has accomplished a lot since breaking into the majors as a 19-year-old in 2005. He's won a Cy Young Award, he's pitched a perfect game, he's thrown an immaculate inning (three strikeouts on nine pitches) and he's even hit a grand slam against another Cy Young winner, Venezuelan legend Johan Santana. And he's been embraced by Mariners fans as not only an ace, but as a monarch. All hail King Felix.
David Brown: If you were King of Venezuela, what’s the first rule you’d make?
Felix Hernandez: Dang, you're making me think. I'd try and help the country, so if there's someone who doesn't have enough food to eat, or whatever, I'd take care of it so they didn't have any more problems. No one should go hungry.
DB: When you first found out that people were calling you King Felix, what did you think?
Felix: I thought, "That sounds pretty good. Haha." I found out when I was at Triple-A and after I got to the big leagues it stayed a little more. And now everybody calls me "The King." I like it.
DB: Did you ever think you'd have a whole section of people, like the King's Court, wearing crowns in your honor?
Felix: That is crazy. I mean, it's the best thing they've ever had for me in Seattle. They're really funny and they're pretty loud. It's unbelievable they'd do that for me.
DB: Did you have a nickname before "King Felix"?
Felix: No, nothing. Here [in the clubhouse] they don't call me King. They call me "Fifi."
DB: Do you think Prince Fielder (0 for 5 with four strikeouts against Hernandez) could ever overpower King Felix?
Felix: I don't know if I could answer that. He definitely should; he's definitely one of the best hitters in the game. At some point, he probably will. Someday.
DB: You have said that, when you were a kid, you wanted to shoot hoops more than play baseball. If it were up to you, would you have pursued a career in the NBA?
Felix: Me?! Haha. I love basketball, but I don't think I could play against those guys. They're way too bigger than me, they're too much stronger than me. Now that I think about it, I could play with guys like Eddie House. Not the All-Stars, not those guys.
DB: How's your jump shot?
Felix: Pretty good. I don't know about shooting three-pointers, but I like to be in the paint. I wouldn't be one of the bigger players, but I like to be in the paint with guys like Sam Cassell and D-Wade.
DB: Who’s the best NBA player of all time?
Felix: Michael Jordan.
DB: You didn't even hesitate.
Felix: No hesitation. I think Michael Jordan is the No. 1. After that, it could be Kobe, it could be LeBron. But I think LeBron is up there. He's getting closer to Jordan. Not No. 1, but close to it.
DB: Is it better that LeBron shaved his head?
Felix: Nah, not really. He still looked good with the headband.
DB: Are you as mad as the rest of Seattle that Kevin Durant and the Sonics got moved to Oklahoma City?
Felix: I support every sports team that Seattle has ... but I'm a big Miami Heat fan. If Seattle still had a basketball team, or could get one again, that'd be awesome. But I'm a big Dwyane Wade fan!
DB: Actual baseball question, sort of: You pitch with so many buttons undone on your jersey. How come?
Felix: Haha. I dunno, it's probably just my style.
DB: It's not because you feel constricted? You wouldn't want to just go out there in a T-shirt?
Felix: Haha, no, no. It's just because I'm trying to be a little different than everybody else. I'm OK with a jersey. It's just my style. I'm always going to do something that's my own style.
DB: Larry Bernandez: What’s he really like?
Felix: The most popular guy in Seattle. Haha. Even more popular than Felix. Haha. I mean, it's unbelievable: The first time I did that commercial, the next year, everybody dressed like Larry Bernandez. He's not like the King at all. He's his own guy.
DB: Do you have a spot in every MLB city to go for arepas?
Felix: No, I wish. Seattle, arepas, yes, because my wife will do it. In Houston, we can find some arepas. Even in Kansas City, when we play here, we'll find some. New York City, maybe. Miami. And that's it. That's the No. 1 food from Venezuela. That's all we do. That's all our moms would do.
DB: Is it like the hamburger is in the U.S., in popularity?
Felix: Kind of, yeah.
DB: No disrespect to Eric Wedge, but what do you imagine playing for Ozzie Guillen would be like?
Felix: I've had a lot of managers in my career, but Ozzie is always fun. I liked to play against Ozzie because he's someone who keeps it fun.
DB: Why does Adrian Beltre hate it so much when people try to touch his head?
Felix: Haha. Yeah, he don't like it, that's for sure. He doesn't feel comfortable with people putting their hands there, where he can't see them. He's always [nervously stroking the top of his head] and he doesn't want people to put their hand there from behind. It's tough for him, haha.
DB: With all due respect to your idol Freddy Garcia, do you know anyone who sweats more than him?
Felix: Uhhhh, no. I don't know, I don't think he has to change his jerseys he sweats so much, does he? He's like me; We don't ever change jerseys. Even if it's hot, we're not doing that.
DB: You don't sweat as much as Freddy, though.
Felix: I sweat a LOT. But you can't see it because I'll wear long sleeves every time.
DB: But you don't sweat as much in the face as Freddy.
Felix: Oh, yeah.
DB: Moving on, who’d the funniest teammate you ever had?
Felix: Eddie Guardado. We've got some funny guys in here now — Raul Ibañez is really funny — but Guardado was the best. He'd tell jokes, and just say things out of nowhere. Ken Griffey was one of the best. He'd keep everybody loose.
DB: Was Ichiro funny?
Felix: Yeah, he was funny. But sometimes he was serious.
DB: What’s the best thing about having Raul Ibañez back?
Felix: You know what he's like? I played with Raul a long time ago, and he's like my big brother. He's always helping everybody. He's like the captain on this team. I'm the King, he's the captain. A great teammate. He's always trying to help everybody out, if he's not trying to make them laugh.
DB: Can you believe how well Wladimir Balentien is doing in Japan?
Felix: We talk all of the time. He's going to break that record. He's going to break it. We've known each other for a long time, since the beginning here, since I was 17. He's always had big power. If he hits it, the ball's going to go far. I'm happy for him now, and if and when he breaks the record, I'm going to be happier.
DB: Is he cool with the culture there?
Felix: Really cool. When we did Japan last year, we went out, and he was really good with the people. I think he might want to come back here. If he's doing that over there, he might want to come back here to try and play again. He's got a chance. He's got great talent.
DB: I read a story about when you were 19 or 20, you liked to sleep in a lot and watch TV when you're not playing baseball. Is that still the case at 27?
Felix: Yeah, I sleep a lot. I watch a lot of TV — anything, whatever is on — and spend time with the family.
DB: Your dad owns a trucking company?
Felix: Yeah, now he's got, like, six trucks now in the fleet. He used to drive the big trucks in Venezuela and now he's an owner.
DB: You ever learn how to drive a truck?
Felix: Nah. Not the big truck.
DB: You’ve thrown a perfect game, you’ve thrown an immaculate inning — striking out the side on nine pitches — and you hit a grand slam against Johan Santana. Which is your favorite moment of the three?
Felix: [Smiles]. Grand slam. The last out of the perfect game was good, too, an awesome moment.
DB: I remember you were so happy when you did that. But you wouldn't joke or kid with Santana about that, would you?
Felix: No, we wouldn't talk about that. On that day, actually, I went to his house and we had arepas — like we said earlier — and we talked about other things. Not about that.
DB: Would it help the Mariners if you hit more often?
Felix: Haha, definitely no. I'm here to pitch. That's my job, bro.
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Previous seasons: • Erin Andrews • Jason Bay • Billy Beane • Heath Bell • Stephen Bishop • Bert Blyleven • Aaron Boone • Larry Bowa • Milton Bradley • Jay Bruce • Gary Carter • Joba Chamberlain • Nelson Cruz • Ryan Dempster • Bucky Dent • Mark DeRosa
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