Jesse Hernandez allowed just two runs over 10 innings for the Vancouver Canadians during the 2011 Northwest League playoffs.
The winning pitcher for the Vancouver Canadians in the deciding Game 3 of the 2011 Northwest League final takes the ball in this first-ever Zoom Edition of C’s Chat. Jesse Hernandez took the time to speak to C’s Plus Baseball in late May to talk about his five-year career in the Toronto Blue Jays system and his memories of the 2011 season in Vancouver.
A native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Hernandez starred for the Central Michigan Chippewas in his three seasons on the mound. The right-hander was named the Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Year during his final college season in 2010 to help the Chippewas capture the conference championship.
Unfortunately, Hernandez did not hear his name called in the 2010 Major League Baseball draft.
“I thought I was going to get a draft opportunity, just a late round or whatever and it ended up being a free agent opportunity which I was ecstatic about being able to continue my baseball career at that point. I got the phone call from the scout, my local scout, and said ‘The Jays want to sign you. Are you in?’ I go, ‘Yeah, when do you guys need me?’ He goes, ‘Well, how does two hours sound? We’ll get you a flight tonight.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, man.’
So with a duffel bag and a pair of dirty cleats, I jumped on a flight and I was heading down to Tampa and that was the start of my professional baseball career.”
Helping Hernandez develop as a pitcher was a 13-year major leaguer from Otsego, Michigan who racked up 96 wins and 92 saves.
“Phil Regan is an old pitching vet, pitched with a bunch of teams over the years, known as ‘The Vulture’. But he’s a Michigan guy and he was an old pro that was there. He was kind of like an old legend that would come in and you’d see him every now and then. He was nice enough to take me under his wing when I was really starting to develop as a young teenager. He kind of polished me and that was kind of my thing.
I was always a very polished pitcher coming up. I just never had the ‘blow you away’ stuff. I had great command of the ball, I could move it around, I could hold the running game, I could field my position. I could do it all from a fundamentals perspective but I just didn’t have the crazy, the wow, blow-you-away type stuff.”
Hernandez would make his professional debut in 2010 with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays against the GCL Braves in relief June 23. That was turn out to be his only appearance as a GCL Blue Jay.
“I got promoted after one outing in the GCL. It was not a very good outing but I guess my stuff was good enough to get me out of there or maybe they were just like, ‘Alright. We’ll give him a shot and see what happens.’ I got a call that day after my outing. ‘Hey, you got the call. You’re going up.’ And I told people. Some of the people, they were like, ‘You’re going up?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I guess.’ That was my first promotion.”
In just his second appearance with the Auburn Doubledays, Hernandez earned his first professional victory with five strikeouts over two shutout innings against the Batavia Muckdogs July 1. His first professional start saw him spin five shutout innings of no-hit ball with just two walks in Hudson Valley June 9.
The 2011 season saw Hernandez make his way to Vancouver for the Canadians first season as a Toronto Blue Jays affiliate. He and fellow pitcher Drew Permison were in downtown Vancouver during Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.
“We’re in this pizza shop. The next thing we know, we see this stampede of people going in one direction. We’re like, ‘Oh crap!’ And they start flooding into the pizza shop. With them comes the tear gas so the pizza owner kicked us out the back. He was like, ‘Hey, you guys gotta go! Get out the back, back, back, back!’ So we get out the back and run out onto the alley. We run out of the city, tear gas in our eyes, we get over the bridge and we look back and it’s like you know that visual of Vancouver after that.
But the one thing I will say about that. That wasn’t the best behaviour but the one thing I was really proud of for the city was how well they responded and how quickly the people came out and volunteered and picked up their mess. You don’t see that very often and that’s another testament to the people of Vancouver.”
The first half saw Vancouver just miss out on a first-half playoff berth to the Eugene Emeralds but it was the infamous July 11 game in Spokane that stood out to Hernandez.
“We got into a brawl that year. We brawled with Spokane that year. We were hard-nosed guys. We wanted to play, we wanted to win and we showed up every night and we showed up when it mattered and that’s why we won.”
Vancouver would win that five-game set in Spokane three games to two. One could say Spokane made it up to the Canadians in the best way possible by defeating Everett on the final night of the regular season to help Monty’s Mounties clinch a second-half play-off berth.
You are invited to check out the rest of this interview with Jesse Hernandez in its entirety below where he talks about the 2011 playoffs and his two bids for a no-hitter with Lansing and Dunedin later in his career.
My thanks again to Jesse Hernandez for the first-ever Zoom edition of C’s Chat that eminated from Michigan and British Columbia.