Updated Aug 23, 2012 - 10:48 am
Felix Hernandez gets his night, and what a night it was
By Shannon Drayer
This is going to be quick and pretty free-flowing as we had a long-but-happy postgame show and a quick turnaround on Wednesday. I am giving myself 15 minutes to write before I have to try to sleep (pretty sure I will see nothing but yellow when I close my eyes) so I encourage you to pick up the slack for me and share your experience from Tuesday night.
I am a worrier. A horrible worrier. I worry about everything, and this week my worry was along the lines of, "what if someone throws a party and no one shows up?" That worry, like most of my worries, was a complete waste of time.
39,204 showed up to show Felix Hernandez that, yes, they like him. They really, really like him. I so wanted to see that appreciation because this is a guy that has gone out and given everything, be it in front of a crowd of 9,000 on the road or a marquee matchup at Yankee Stadium. This is also a guy who has never given up on his team regardless of the struggles or lack of run support. This is a guy who has stood in front of reporters after a 1-0 complete-game loss, having made just one mistake, and said that he felt bad for his hitters.
Felix deserved one heck of a party, and he got that Tuesday night.
He was looking forward to it from the minute that he first heard about the "Supreme Court."
"For real? For me?" he said when asked about his initial reaction.
I am not sure he could have been prepared for what he saw when he came out of the clubhouse for his warmup.
"I got chills," he said of first seeing all of the yellow shirts. "I was like, 'Wow, this is unbelievable. It's pretty amazing. This is something special.' I really appreciate the Seattle Mariners and I appreciate the fans. They support me every year."
As he went through his stretch and then his warmup in the bullpen, the crowd kept growing. As he walked from the bullpen to the dugout he received a loud standing ovation. He tried to keep a straight face but then the smile broke through. He tipped his cap to the crowd in every direction.
"I was trying to keep my focus but you can't keep your focus like that, man," he said of his walk across the field. "These people were crazy, they were unbelievable. I had to tip my cap to those guys."
The cheering and the chanting continued throughout the game. It never let up when Felix was pitching. I asked what it was like to pitch in that atmosphere and hear the noise for seven-plus innings.
"I think that's one of the ..." Felix said before stopping himself. He paused, then gave a little laugh and tried again.
"That's the best game I have ever pitched at Safeco Field," he continued. "In front of the crowd, it was unbelievable and they were all yelling 'Felix, Felix!' That was something special."
Felix has always refused to say what his best game ever was. He came darn close there. He may have been caught up in the emotion or maybe he wasn't. Maybe his crowd meant more to him than the perfect game. With Felix, it's a possibility. What we saw Tuesday night meant something to him. If you were there, believe me, he heard you.
He wasn't the only one. This young team, this team that has been learning all year, learned a thing or two Tuesday night about atmosphere and what could be.
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