Indianapolis Indians centerfielder Gorkys Hernandez is only 23 years old, but he is playing in his third organization. There is no question he has the talents and abilities to become a long time big leaguer; how many players can say they have been invited to play in the MLB Futures game for three different organizations? The question and perhaps the reason that the speedy and gifted Hernandez has bounced from Detroit to Atlanta to Pittsburgh is his attitude. From time to time Gorkys Hernandez has thrown his bat, his helmet, argue with umpires, and generally act out in childish ways. At times those acts overshadow his baseball abilities.
In 2009 the Pittsburgh Pirates sent All-Star CF Nate McLouth to the Atlanta Braves in return for three minor league players. One of the players was Gorkys Hernandez and the 21 year-old was sent to Double-A Altoona. During a game with the Curve an animated Hernandez complained to an umpire and then proceeded to toss things around in the dugout. Miguel Perez was there and remembers the outburst. “It was quite a show he put on that day, but in the end he was embarrassing himself.” Miguel Perez was a catcher on the 2009 Altoona team and didn’t like the attitude of the new young centerfielder. “Back in the clubhouse I sat down next to him and asked who are you? Do you know where you are playing?” Gorkys gave Miguel a confused look and said Double-A. “Exactly, you are in Double-A. You haven’t done anything in this game and there is no reason for you to act the way you do. In the higher levels and the big leagues, guys don’t act like you.” Miguel Perez has been playing pro ball since 2001 and since 2006 he has never played in more than 57 games, but he grew tired of watching a fellow Venezuela player hold him self back. “It was the first time I had ever spoken to Gorkys and I told him that the only person who will keep him out of the big leagues is himself. He can’t act like that and expect to succeed. At the time I’m not sure if another player had ever talked to him like that. I could tell he didn’t like it.”
A couple of days later while shagging fly balls during batting practice the top prospect walked over to the back-up catcher. “I wanted to know his story and where he has played and I found out that he played in the big leagues with the Reds.” At one time Miguel Perez was a catching prospect with the Cincinnati Reds and made his debut in September of 2006. He played in only 2 games and went 0-3. It remains the only time he has played in the Major Leagues. For Gorkys that was enough and soon the two of them became inseparable. “Gorkys asked to be my roommate so we roomed on the road and we shared an apartment. I didn’t walk over to him that day to find a friend, but to get him to act more professionally.”
Perez played for the Indians during the 2009 and he has a very easy-going personality. He is always upbeat and greets everybody with a smile. I found it out of character for him to step up to a player like Gorkys and set him straight, turns out I was wrong. “I guess most of the places I have been I have been looked as a leader. Maybe it is because I’m a catcher, I don’t know, but I do my best to keep people accountable.” Sounds like a leader to me and to Indians manager Dean Treanor. “Miggy is great behind the plate. What I like is the way he deals with pitchers and he can be a calming influence when things are not going your way. Plus, I see that way he fits into our clubhouse.”
The team was in Toledo Ohio when I first noticed the relationship between Miguel and Gorkys. Gorkys has been with the Indians all season and for Miguel it was only his first week with the 2011 team. The Indians bullpen melted down late in a 7-1 loss at Toledo and after my on the field interview I made my way through the Indians dugout and down the hallway. The entire team walked int the clubhouse, but Gorkys waited for Miguel in the dugout as he gathered up his catching gear. I was behind the two players as they walked from the dugout to a hallway that would lead them to the clubhouse. In the hallway five kids in wheel chairs and their parents approached. The kids were heading to the dugout and their parents were going to push them around the bases before other kids could run the bases. They thought the team had completely passed by and the parents tried to turn the bulky wheelchairs so the two players could pass by. Gorkys had his head down and walked by the kids when all of a sudden I heard Miguel “Gorkys, come here.” The 23 year-old stopped and with the loss still stinging, turned and walked back towards the kids. I watched Gorkys and Miguel kneel down, and let the kids wear their gloves and hold their bats. Two parents covered their mouths and wiped away their tears. Unfortunately not all of the kids could hold a bat or put on a glove so Miguel placed his catching mask on a kid and place his bat in another’s lap. The only sound was the kids laughing and I’m not sure who had the bigger smiles; the kids or Miguel and Gorkys. A very simple gesture gave the families a special memory. After a minute, the two Indians were in the clubhouse and the kids took to the diamond.
The two Venezuelans still room together and just the other day Miguel had to set Gorkys straight after he became frustrated. “He can be frustrated, but not in the dugout where everyone can see him. He’ll be ready for the big leagues when he begins to act like a big league player and that day will be very soon. I mean do you see the way he plays centerfield? He’s a unbelievable player and he’s my good friend.” Even if their paths never crossed, Gorkys would be a prospect in Triple-A, but thanks to Miguel Perez he can shed the prospect tag and become a Major League player and person.
A July heat wave has hit the midwest and Indianapolis is under a heat advisory. Over the next few days the humidity will make it feel like 100-110 degrees. It’s hot in the radio booth and in the stands, so how do the players do it? Athletic Trainer Bryan Housand knows the key is hydration. “There are several ice towels in the dugout and they are for anyone who needs one. Plus, we made sure the players are full of electrolytes.” Gatorade has cornered the hydration market. The Indians players will take a packet of Gatorade Electrolyte powder and mix it with a bottle of water. That way when they sweat they are still keeping the nutrients they need. “The whole key is to make sure they take the powder and just keep drinking fluids.”
Steve Pearce is rehabbing with the Indians and was playing in Florida prior to joining the Tribe. “Everyday is hot in Bradenton. I don’t mind this heat and I can get used to this more than trying to adjust and play in 30 or 40 degree weather.” Not only is Housand busy keeping the players hydrated, but he is dealing with two Pittsburgh Pirates. Pearce and Pirates SS Ronny Cedeno are currently with the team and could be activated by the Pirates by the weekend. This is the fifth season Pearce has worn an Indians uniform and according to him the first time in a while he’s been healthy. “My off-season knee surgery was needed and I’m feeling great. I’m ready when the Pirates need me and my job will be to help them win games and stay healthy.” Pearce went on the Pirates DL May 29 with a partially torn right calf muscle. Cedeno suffered a concussion while playing SS and was place on the new 7 day concussion disabled list. He has been out for more than seven days, but says he is ready to rejoin the Pirates.
On Sunday in Columbus 6 Indians players who saw action were on the Pirates opening day roster. They were Pearce, Cedeno, John Bowker, Pedro Alvarez, Garrett Olson, and Josh Rodriguez. While at the same time the Pirates had SEVEN players from the Indians opening day roster. It is always the Triple-A teams job to prepare players for the big leagues and Dean and his staff have done just that.
Hope you can join us for the tonight’s broadcast. The Indians are facing the Charlotte Knights, the White Sox Triple-A affiliate. The Indians enter play Tuesday night 5 games out in the wild card race. Pre-game coverage on SportsRadio 1260 am begins at 6:45 with LHP Rudy Owens delivering the first pitch at 7:05.