SEATTLE (AP) - His hands trembled, his breath quickened and his eyes began to fill with tears. Felix Hernandez looked down at the piece of paper containing details of the largest contract ever placed in front of a pitcher and emotion took over.
So when Hernandez signed his new seven-year contract on Wednesday with the Mariners to become the highest-paid pitcher in baseball, his goal of staying with the only franchise he’s even known became reality.
That’s why he nervously shook and paused on multiple occasions to gain his composure. It was raw. It was genuine.
It was why he’s become affectionately known by Seattle fans as King Felix.
“I always say that this is home,” Hernandez said. “This is my life.”
The $175 million pact covered the final two years of his existing deal that was scheduled to run through the 2014 season and added five additional years through the 2019 season. The contract is fully guaranteed, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. Hernandez also got a full no-trade clause, the first one given by the franchise.
King Felix got a ransom _ and then some.
Why not? For a franchise that’s gone more than a decade since last reaching the postseason, Hernandez is the best thing the Mariners have going. Hernandez never wanted to try the open market and Zduriencik was going to make sure his ace never left.
Scott Pucino, one of Hernandez’s representatives, said his client bluntly told him last May that the job was to keep him in Seattle. The first conversations between Hernandez’s reps and Zduriencik started last September.
It was a long process that appeared to be further delayed by reports late last week that there could be an issue with Hernandez’s elbow. Zduriencik said team doctors gave Hernandez was given a “clean bill of health.”
And the contract was completed before spring training as all parties wanted.
“I’m different. It’s the way my family raised me. If you feel comfortable in a place _ now I’m the reporter _ if you feel comfortable and happy and you believe in people, are you going to go anywhere?” Hernandez said. “I’m different. I’m different. It happened.”
Hernandez was greeted Wednesday by Mariners front-office staff all wearing yellow “Kings Court” T-shirts that have become a special section of the stadium for all of his starts. That started his waves of emotional roller coaster. At one point, while dabbing his eyes, he looked over to his young son and daughter, and broke out into a grin after getting a pair of thumbs up.
“It was emotional because this is a big thing. This is a big dream,” he said.