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An interview with Umpire Angel Hernandez

hernandez_angel

As in any sport, baseball umpires are often only in the spotlight when they perform poorly. Most don’t crave that attention. Some are enamored by it and others are Joe West. Angel Hernandez simply seems oblivious to the reaction of fans and media to his body of work. I had a chance to spend some time with him in Miami while he was working the World Baseball Classic. We met for lunch at the Miami Yacht Club.

NOTSCMLB: Thanks for taking the time to meet with me, Mr Hernandez.

Angel Hernandez: Please, call me Mr Umpire.

NOTSCMLB: Uh, OK….Mr Umpire. What drove you to become an umpire years ago?

AH: I’ve always loved the game of baseball, but struggled playing the game. I had good fundamentals. In fact, I had a great swing. I just couldn’t put it together. My dreams were shattered late in high school during a state tournament. With the game on the line, injuries gave me my chance to be the hero. Standing at the plate, I saw a ball I just knew I could drive out of the park to lift our team to victory. I swung with all I had, prepared for glory. As it turns out, the pitcher had thrown over to first. I never swung the bat again as the umpire claimed the next 3 pitches were right down the middle. Our team’s season and my baseball career were over.

NOTSCMLB: That had to be tough. Was it those strike calls that encouraged you to become an umpire?

AH: No, it was the reaction of my teammates. And the opposing players. And the fans. They made me feel helpless. I vowed I would never feel that way again. (Gesturing to the waiter) Hey, Julio. Another Mojito here, pronto.

Julio, the waiter: My name’s not Julio, sir. It’s Juan.

AH: Don’t you talk back to me, Julio, or I’ll throw you out of here!

J̶u̶l̶i̶o̶ Juan, the waiter: I work here. You can’t throw me out of here.

AH: Just get me my Mojito.

Jtw: Right away.

NOTSCMLB: Who was your primary influence as your umpiring career began to take off?

AH: Having grown up in Cuba, the biggest influence on every part of my life is Fidel Castro. (receives drink) Thank you, Julio. … I love Fidel Castro.

NOTSCMLB: Wow. Aren’t you a little concerned about being reprimanded by Major League Baseball for such a comment, like Ozzie Guillen was?

AH: Who?

NOTSCMLB: Ozzie Guillen. Former Marlins manager.

AH: Oh. I don’t know any of the manager’s names. They’re just walking piles of money to me from the ejection pool we umpires all chip in to.

NOTSCMLB: So Major League umpires essentially have a bounty program on managers?!?

AH: What are you talking about?

NOTSCMLB: You just said you guys have a pool to….

AH: You know, this Mojito is a little salty. Let’s get out of here.

We climb into Angel’s car to head to the ballpark. The 12-year veteran umpire weaves in and out of traffic, never really driving in any one lane at a time.

NOTSCMLB: You’ve taken a lot of heat for what is considered by many as a wildly inconsistent strike zone.

AH: Really? I don’t really pay attention to that stuff. People just don’t know what they’re talking about until they spend time behind that plate. Did you know that, when I crouch behind the catcher over his inside shoulder, I can’t even see the outside corner of the plate? It disappears. Literally, it disappears. There is no more outside corner. How can I possibly make a wrong call on an outside pitch when there’s no outside corner?

NOTSCMLB: (stunned silence)

AH: Well, we’re here at the stadium. I’m afraid we’re going to have to wrap up this interview.

NOTSCMLB: This is a bingo hall.

AH: Get out.

UPDATE – May 9, 2013

Following the controversy in Cleveland regarding a video replay review by Angel Hernandez that Major League Baseball admitted incorrectly took a home run away from Oakland, we contacted the umpire to ask if he had anything to say about the incident.

NOTSCMLB: Thanks for taking the time, Ange….er, Mr Umpire.  So you really couldn’t see that fly ball strike the railing above the yellow line last night?

AH: Hell, no, I couldn’t see it.  All I could see was the reflection of my own face in the television monitor.  I am one good looking son of a bitch and I am thrilled to once again be getting the attention I deserve.

2 Comments

  1. Well after this asshole did last night he should go BACK TO CUBA!!!!!!

  2. Pingback: The Inception of MLB Obnoxiousness - NOTSportsCenter

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