Enrique Hernandez is putting his power to good use
It has been six months since Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, and still power and water are not reliably available throughout the island.
Many homes are beyond repair, and Enrique Hernandez is doing his best to help. The Dodgers’ utility man set up an online fundraiser for his countrymen, then attracted America’s attention by hitting three home runs in the game that clinched the National League championship. Donations surged in the 24 hours following the game, and now Hernandez says he is putting the $126,000 into a partnership with Habitat for Humanity.
“We’re still trying to figure out where we can get permits to do the construction,” Hernandez said, “but I think we’ve got enough money to build 20 or 30 homes.
“I was blessed enough to be on this team for that playoff run and use the media coverage to spread the word and do some good for my people back home that were in desperate need, and still are. There are still a lot of things going on that shouldn’t be going on six months after a hurricane hits.”
The sluggish federal disaster relief response has triggered outrage in Puerto Rico. When the World Series champion Houston Astros visited the White House this week, Puerto Ricans Carlos Beltran and Carlos Correa declined to attend. Beltran is retired; Correa said he spent the day collecting supplies to send to Puerto Rico.
“I’m glad that they both stood for what they believe in,” Hernandez said. “It’s a very hard decision. Refusing to go to the White House is bigger than baseball. There’s a lot of people who could come after you for that. It takes a lot of guts to stand firm in your belief. I applaud them for doing that.”
When President Trump visited the island in September, Hernandez criticized him for tossing out paper towels to hurricane victims as if he were shooting free throws.
During the World Series, Hernandez said, he had agonized over whether he would skip the White House trip if the Dodgers won.
“Since we lost and I want to avoid controversy,” he said, “I’m going to say that I would have gone.”
Hernandez is batting .310 this spring, with seven of his nine hits for extra bases. His most likely role — left fielder against left-handed pitching — appears to have evaporated with the revival of Matt Kemp. But he has played every position besides pitcher and catcher, and he has lobbied for playing time against right-handers.
“I don’t necessarily think I’m going to be a utility guy playing against lefties, and just going in on a double switch late in games. I worked out as if I were going to start 162 games. That’s the goal. I’m tired of selling myself short. I’m going to work out for what I want out of my career.”
Toward that end, he said, he has adopted a diet intended to keep him healthy and strong enough to endure the rigors of a 162-game season. The man who formerly dressed as a rally banana has limited his consumption of carbohydrates, dairy and sugar.
“I don’t need more sugar in my life,” he said. “I’m already hyper enough.”
It is not uncommon for a pitcher to shrug off a poor Cactus League outing.
It’s just spring training. The ball flies in Arizona. And, on Thursday, the wind was unusually gusty.
Rich Hill would have none of it. He faced eight batters, giving up seven hits and six runs.
“It sucked,” he said. “Going out there and pitching like that is unacceptable. For me, I don’t enjoy that whatsoever. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Cactus League game. You want to go out there and have success.”
Hill’s Cactus League earned-run average jumped from 1.29 to 8.59. Then again, his Cactus League ERA was 6.19 last year, and 11.25 the year before. Those years turned out just fine.
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin
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