An era came to a close in Seattle on Thursday, and Mariners fans did their best to make sure a tearful Felix Hernandez heard their gratitude. What came next was one of the most emotional goodbyes in sports.
With Hernandez’s contract set to run out after this season, MLB.com’s Greg Johns reported that Thursday’s start would be the former Cy Young winner’s final appearance with the Mariners. He told reporters after the game he does not intend to retire just yet.
It’s hard to say if Hernandez will get another MLB shot with a new team, but it was clearly the end for Hernandez in Seattle.
With that in mind, the Mariners faithful showed up in force at an expanded King’s Court, and took every opportunity to cheer and chant Hernandez’s name as he pitched. That continued throughout the game, up to a stirring ending for one of the great careers in Seattle history.
Felix visibly emotional making his walk to the dugout after warming up. pic.twitter.com/BGxgUX9tJB— Dallas Braden (@DALLASBRADEN209) September 27, 2019
As Hernandez took the mound, he acknowledged it all with his sizable cheering section.
Seattle salutes King Felix pic.twitter.com/zN5ZqimdQl— Subscribe to Cut4 on YouTube!!!! (@Cut4) September 27, 2019
The start unfortunately didn’t begin the way most of its attendees were hoping, as the A’s put on four baserunners and scored a run in the first inning.
Hernandez’s first strikeout of the game in the second inning, and it was yet another strong moment in a night full of them.
Hernandez bounced back from giving up three runs in the first two innings with three straight scoreless frames, ending with a superb catch from outfielder Dylan Moore to save multiple runs in the fifth. The pitcher’s reaction was priceless.
The pitcher’s night ended in the sixth inning, which began with every fan in the stadium knowing what was happening. Hernandez took the mound one last time, and none of his teammates left the dugout with him. As the music played during his warm-ups, the moment was his alone.
Fans chanted “Thank you Felix,” Hernandez walked around the mound with tears in his eyes and the pitcher got one last out, a flyout to center. Manager Scott Servais came out to pull Hernandez, who sobbed as he hugged every teammate in sight.
The King’s reign came to an emotional conclusion as he walked back to the dugout, hugged some more teammates and watched a tribute video begin playing.
Hernandez then returned to the field to say goodbye to a group of fans who showed their appreciation for the man who gave them a franchise-record 169 wins, a Cy Young, a perfect game, six All-Star nods and 15 years of memories.
The festivities continued after the game, when Hernandez returned to the field and embraced his fans.
Hail to the King, baby. 👑 pic.twitter.com/OLZQrf6ty8— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) September 27, 2019
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