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Player diary: Kiké Hernández on the thrill of winning the World Series

Dodgers' Kiké Hernández slings his bat as he celebrates an RBI-double.
Dodgers’ Kiké Hernández celebrates an RBI-double against the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 4 of the World Series on Oct. 24 in Arlington, Texas.
(Eric Gay / Associated Press)

As told to Times staff writer Jorge Castillo.

That whole last inning, I was like, woof, anxious.

It there were a camera focused on me, it would’ve showed me moving the entire inning. I was walking in circles. I couldn’t stop myself.

I felt like, “Wow, this is going to happen.” At the same time, I knew the tie was on deck. They still had life.

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When [Willy] Adames fell behind with two strikes, I got goosebumps all over my body. I was telling myself, “Don’t smile, don’t smile, don’t smile. The game isn’t over.” Then I was thinking, “Hit me the ball, hit me the ball. I want to make the final out and end this.”

And once Julio [Urías] throws the pitch and Adames takes it, and the umpire, after a little delay, calls it a strike, the excitement was overwhelming.

The first thing I did was jump up and look at Corey [Seager]. He was coming to me and we hugged each other. And we started jumping around in circles. We kept telling each other, “We did it. We won. Finally.

I told my wife that Seager and I will always have that bond because that hug with Seager was the first feeling I had as a world champion. I felt the emotion, the happiness he had.

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Mookie Betts, the Dodgers’ only African American player, wasn’t going to play August 26 as a message of social protest, so his teammates didn’t play either.

I’m still trying to find the words to describe the feeling. Two, three days later, I’m still trying to find the words for how I felt, how I still feel.

I still haven’t taken off my hat. I’ve put on my world champions hat, the one with the trophy on the back, backward to have the trophy on the front so every time I look in the mirror I see that little trophy, and I smile because we’ve been through so much as a team. The journey has been long, it hasn’t been easy, and we, finally, were able to finish it. In a year like this, that was so difficult and so many things happened, at the end of the day we ended up world champions, and nobody can take that away from us.

We arrived in the bubble thinking it would feel like an eternity. We had an adjustment period, but we got used to everything after a few days. My wife, Mariana, was dealing with the pregnancy, with back pains, but we made it work. We watched a lot of shows. A lot of episodes of “The Office.”

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The bubble had two tents, one for each team, with a pool table, and a lounge area to watch television with drinks and snacks. Inside, there was a conference room where we did our coronavirus tests every day. Everyone in the bubble had to take the tests, except for children.

We saw the other team every day. It was impossible not to. They had to go through our tents to get to theirs. We had to go to the same place to get to the buses, the same place to get food, and the same place for the tests.

There was a lot of security, but the most security was stationed where the bubble ended like at the entrances to the golf course. We weren’t allowed there. The buses would leave for the stadium every half-hour. After games, only 14 people could go on each bus back to the hotel.

The first series in the bubble, against the Padres, definitely didn’t feel like the playoffs without fans. The atmosphere was dead.

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Kiké Hernández sits on the field with legs outstretched, holding the World Series trophy.
Dodgers second baseman Kiké Hernández celebrates after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the World Series on Oct. 27.
(Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)

Then, once we advanced to play Atlanta, they started letting fans in, and it felt like there was 100,000 fans at the first game. Seeing fans in the stands was strange. When I went out onto the field to prepare for the game, it was like, “Whoa.”

Falling behind 3-1 against Atlanta was like a reality check. I would say that one of the things that helped us was not having to fly across the country for the games, and there weren’t any off days. Once the momentum shifted, we could keep it there.

That series was difficult, but we went to the World Series thinking, “There’s no chance that we came back from 3-1 to lose in the World Series.” There was an internal peace, but we also had that urgency.

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Game 4 was a roller coaster of incredible emotions, from the start of the game until it ended. We got to two strikes with two outs. I was anxious, happy, surprised, sad, excited, happy, and then sad again. It all happened in three seconds.

We told ourselves we had to forget about it and that we had to turn the page. But we did it mostly through text messages. We have a group chat with all the players that started during the shutdown in March. We used it during the season but not like we used it in the playoffs.

That’s another thing I would say that was different from other years: our team unity. It was a lot stronger than in other years. I loved that chat. And the first person to write something in it after the game was [Clayton] Kershaw.

He wrote that we can’t let this ruin our season. We have to remember that we’re still the best team in the world and that hasn’t changed. Everyone then started sending messages, and that’s how we picked each other up.

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It was a game that could kill any team, but, at the same time, the series was 2-2. We were still alive. We had a chance. And if we came back from 3-1 against Atlanta, we could definitely survive this. We tried to forget about it and come back the next day with a new mentality. We got on the bus the next day, and it was like nothing had happened. That’s why we could do what we did and not lose another game.

I learned about what happened to Justin [Turner] in Game 6 right away because I saw Andrew Friedman in the dugout, and I asked myself, “What is happening here?” That’s when they told me J.T. tested positive, and my first reaction was like, “What? How does that happen if we’re inside a bubble?”

It was a difficult situation. I had dreamed about different scenarios and what it would be like to win the World Series. In every scenario, I saw myself running to J.T. to hug him. J.T. has been one of my closest friends on the team. He’s our leader, our captain. It was difficult. We all were asking, “Where’s J.T.?”

A series-by-series look at how the Dodgers beat the Brewers, Padres, Braves and Rays to win their first World Series title since 1988 this season.

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We didn’t know until after the game that there were two positive tests. We had thought that it was a false positive, and that’s why we couldn’t believe they were taking away his moment to celebrate.

We all thought, “We’ve been in the bubble together for the last month. The chances that, if he had it, a lot of people would have it, are very high already.” But it turns out that nobody else had it somehow.

Now I’m a free agent. I’ve thought about it a bit, but this is a new feeling. The last five years, inevitably, we’ve gotten used to the feeling of having our hearts broken when we went home after not getting to where we wanted to.

Every year I got home and asked, “Why did we lose?” I start thinking how it could have been different. “How could we have won that series?”

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This year is different. This time, I don’t have to think about that. We did it.

The reality is, I don’t know what’s going to happen. The only thing I know that’s going to happen this offseason is we’re going to have a baby girl. I’m going to be a dad. But, at the same time, if that ends up being my last game with the Dodgers, I’m at peace with it. I can leave with my head held high because we did it. We reached the goal. We brought the title to Los Angeles after so many years.

This story also ran in Spanish in our Dodgers World Series special section


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