Venezuela’s press doesn’t like much in America, but it’s hailing the man they call “El Rey” (The King) after Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez became the first Venezuelan to throw a perfect game in Major League Baseball.
“The Greatest!” blared the headline in El Universal, one of Venezuela’s most popular publications. Writer Victor David Melo Zurita played the court minstrel.
“It was his perfect, unforgettable evening,” he wrote. “That one that he longed for so long and that arrived to cover him with glory. Against that confidence nobody was able to do anything. Only to bow before his majesty the king.”
Hernandez struck out 12 batters, more than one per inning, as the last-place Mariners slipped by the Tampa Bay Rays 1 to 0. When Hernandez threw the last pitch, and the ump called strike three, teammates surrounded him on the mound and carried him on their shoulders. And why not? As Zurita says, “The King of baseball attained the jewel that was missing from his crown.”
He earned the title of King Felix well before he dominated the Rays. Hernandez has dazzled since his rookie season eight years ago, winning the 2010 AL CY Young award for best pitcher. Just 26, he’s already won 96 games, including last night’s.
As El Universal writer Andreina Salas Guzmán noted in “Gold Medal of Pitching,” Hernandez wins games in spite of playing for one of the lowest-scoring teams in baseball.
Hernandez was also the first Mariner to pitch a perfect game, and just the 23rd pitcher to do so since Major League Baseball began in 1880. He is not the first Latin American pitcher to reach perfection, however; as Tal Cual Digital noted, Nicaraguan-born hurler Dennis Martinez beat him to it, throwing one for the Montreal Expos in 1991.
Check out the Últimas Noticias website and its downloadable caricature of Felix Hernandez drawn by artist Eduardo Sanabria.