Unless you’ve been living in a cave, it’s likely by now that you’ve heard of Felix Fernandez signing a record contract extension with the Seattle Mariners. Rather than go over the numbers, risks, and merits of said extension I thought it was important to look at the man himself and asked if he is truly the last of his kind. Hernandez signed in his early teens and rose rapidly through the Mariners organization making his major-league debut after his 19th birthday. His recent contract will be the second time that he has spurned free agency to re-sign with the Mariners even though he had time remaining on his deal.
Felix, or King Felix as he is affectionately known to fans, has long maintained how happy he is in the Emerald City and has absolutely no desire to play anywhere else. So much so that he even teased that they were already discussing the next contract when this one expires.
There is a perception amongst many in sports that to play in Seattle is to languish in obscurity. They point to the geographic location of the city as well as the team struggles as detriments to getting your name out there. There is also the perception of the East Coast bias in that West Coast teams not originating from Los Angeles or San Francisco, will be overlooked simply due to the fact that by the time their games end at approximately 10 PM Pacific it is 1 AM back east and most of the news media there have gone to bed. As a result, they’re not as familiar with the talent on the West Coast and therefore players do not get as many opportunities to attract the attention of Madison Avenue and rake in those lucrative commercial endorsement dollars.
More than once it has been mentioned that if Felix played in a market such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, or Philadelphia, he would have no end to endorsement offers and perhaps would even have television and movie roles being offered to him.
The funny thing about all this is that Seattle is the number 12 market in the country and is home to a wealthy populace and numerous high-tech corporations. Ken Griffey Jr. certainly had no issue attracting sponsors and appeared in several local and national ads during his time with the team. The fact is, these things are not all that important Felix. He is happy with where he is and what he has. He desires to perform well and have his team win and that is where he puts his attention and focus. Not on how to brand his name and leapfrog into other opportunities.
Undoubtedly, a $25 million a year salary does diminish those desires, but in this age of me-first athletes it is refreshing to see somebody who is extremely content with what he has and does not focus on what else he can get. Felix also has avoided the temptation to jump to a ready-made contender as he is confident in the youth movement the team has in place and at the ripe old age of 26 desires to be the focal point of the team for the next seven years as they built what he believes will be a contending team.
With players playing their entire career for the same team becoming almost extinct, it’s nice to see one player who truly cherishes the city, fans, and organization and is proud to be a part of it rather than saying that the grass is greener elsewhere.
In my opinion, all sports not just baseball could use more players like Felix Hernandez both on and off the field.