A Word On The King

I’ve had a terrible day at work and in general, but I was just gripped by the sudden urge to say some things after seeing this tweet by the most excellent John Trupin from Lookout Landing:

Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 5.49.16 PM

Because we do; and he does. But the reasons are much different than it might appear on the surface, and I felt compelled to think out loud here for a few moments. Don’t worry, it’ll be short and to the point.

When Felix Hernandez was coming up through the minors, Twitter wasn’t a thing yet. The (at the time pretty small) blogosphere was already seeing him for what he was: El Rey. In his still-little-kid chubbiness, his hat falling off when he threw to the plate up in Everett with the Aquasox, his near-mullet dark curly hair sticking out of his hat, I remember hearing about this guy under all the Ichiro greatness that was advertised on TV. Ichiro was The Face of the Mariners, but there was this other kid, this pitcher…when I took the plunge into the baseball world in 2007-2008, Felix was still losing more games in a year than he was winning, having only just gotten up to the majors in 2005. He was still young, still working off that  little kid pudge, still figuring out his stuff and his style, and of course had a lot less tattoos. But he was already easily on his way to being the A Pretty Big Deal.

So much time has passed between now and then that I honestly don’t remember the first time I heard the title “King Felix”. But I remember one of the first times I ever heard it used by 710 ESPN, back in 2010-or’11-ish when I used to listen to the original Brock and Salk show at my engineering job on Harbor Island, and it hit me; this means something. Something the fans have laid claim to and created was just mentioned on a local branch of a national radio channel, and that is important. They would play “Sunshine and Lollipops” before an on-air interview with Jeff Sullivan or Dave Cameron. Other shows on the station eventually made it part of their everyday vernacular; King Felix Hernandez. King Felix. The King is starting tonight at Safeco Field. That’s what the fans called him, and the fans made believers out of the local radio, out of the national media, even maybe out of Felix himself (I mean, not to get too big a head about it, but you know we helped).

So when Felix Hernandez refers to himself as “The King”, it’s because he knows we know. It’s not ego, it’s not false bravado; it’s because he knows we love him, he knows we accept it; he loves us just as much as we love him. That’s a rarity in this game where there are so many players and so many fans; that level of acknowledgement and humility and respect; and if that’s not a wonderful fantastic thing, then I don’t know what is. All Rise.  Larga Vida El Rey!

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4 Responses to A Word On The King

  1. Compass Rosy says:

    What I remember hearing (and, I am getting old so, I could be mis-remembering) is that the nickname King was actually K’ing (for all the strikeouts he recorded, even as a young one in the minors) . . . . can anyone corroborate?

  2. Megan Shear says:

    Per Pat, the Aquasox radio guy, it was actually coined by a former writer from USS Mariner around 2003, then fell into more common use via Lookout Landing and everyone else. Dave Cameron was apparently the first one to wish everyone a Happy Felix Day, and now that I’m thinking about it, I am 99% sure that was during a radio interview on ESPN, and it was before a start he had. Of course, now you can buy t-shirts with that one them. 😀

    • Compass Rosy says:

      Thanks, Megan. But, did “King” come from the idea of “K’ing” or just plain King?

      • Megan Shear says:

        I think it’s just plain King. The strikeout idea is an interesting one, but El Rey is what he was being called before he was King Felix, and that just means the king; I have never heard about the strikeout thing until now, myself. 🙂

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