Since making his major-league debut with the Astros in 2014, Kiké Hernández has played for four different managers in his time with the ‘Stros, the Marlins, and Dodgers.
Never before has Hernandez played under a manager who hails from his home island of Puerto Rico. That will all change on Thursday afternoon when the 29-year-old takes the field for a Red Sox team led by the Puerto Rican-born Alex Cora.
“It’s an honor and I feel extremely proud to be playing for a Puerto Rican manager,” Hernandez explained Wednesday. “Growing up, almost every manager — if not every manager — was an American. So for me to be playing for a Puerto Rican manager, it means a lot. It’s something that the island is very proud of — I’m very proud of.”
The relationship between Hernandez and Cora goes back well before the former inked a two-year, $14 million deal with Boston back in February.
While growing up in Puerto Rico in the late 90s/early 2000s, Hernandez served as batboy for the same winter ball team Cora was playing for at that time, so the two got to know one another through that and their bond has only evolved since then.
“To play for Alex, the guy that I’ve known for 20 years, I’m just really happy,” the right-handed hitting Hernandez said. “I feel really comfortable because I feel like we’ve had this relationship for so long. I feel like we were friends before that. To have that relationship with your manager, it means a lot.
“Even when he wasn’t saying anything, when I was just watching him as a kid, I was learning a lot from him,” added Hernandez. “Once I grew up and I started playing winter ball and he was managing against me, every once in a while he would hit me up and give me little hints or help me out on defense, on double plays or whatever. So he’s had a huge impact on my career and I’m really proud and really happy to be playing for him.”
While he is happy and proud to play for Cora, Hernandez is also looking forward to soaking in his first official regular season game as a member of the Red Sox.
Fenway Park is a venue the 5-foot-11, 198 pounder has played inside plenty of times as a visitor, but Wednesday marked the first time he could experience the ballpark from the other side of the field.
“One of the first things I did was go into the dugout,” Hernandez recounted. “And the view from the first base dugout is a lot more special in this stadium than the view from the third base dugout. I can tell you that. It felt special. The magic of Fenway, you can actually feel it from the first base dugout.
“Like I’ve said, there’s a lot I’m looking forward to, a lot that I’m excited about, and it’s nothing that I take for granted,” he said. “There’s been times and there will be times [Thursday] where I’m going to sit back and think about everything. Just really happy to be here.”
(Picture of Kiké Hernández: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)