Dodgers’ Banana Man All Smiles
There’s nothing quite like doing something you love, or watching someone do what they love and do it well.
The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Kike Hernandez is one of those someones, though, he had struggled with the “do it well” part for quite awhile before Thursday night.
After a solid rookie year, and a struggling sophomore campaign, Hernandez had a nice start to the 2017 campaign.
And then… it went in the toilet.
By the time the year ended, the right-handed utility player was hitting right-handed pitching at a sub .160 clip.
But, manager Dave Roberts had a feeling about Hernandez during the playoff run and put him in the lineup in the cleanup spot.
0-4 in two games.
Dumb move, Dave.
But, Roberts was undaunted. For game five, he moved Hernandez down to the six hole.
Smart move, Dave.
Three home runs, three giddy, ecstatic, feet-barely-touching-the-ground trips around the bases, and three flurries of ill-timed, miss-aimed high fives later and Hernandez is in the record books.
Most home runs in a post season game (tied.) Most RBI’s in a game (all by his lonesome.)
After, he told TBS’ Sam Ryan he “got a pitch to hit” on the first two and had “no idea what happened” with the third.
It doesn’t matter how, really. It was his joyful reaction that is now woven into the tapestry of baseball stories and all-time performances.
He won’t be soon forgotten, even if he never regains his rookie form and gets sent off to AAA or Cincinatti.
He won’t be forgotten for one simple reason.
He has it in spades.
And joy is fun to watch. And it’s fun to root for. And it’s especially nice when someone with it, who’s a kid from Puerto Rico and has struggled all year, has a day like few others.
Joy is hard to find sometimes.
But Hernandez has some to spare. This is, after all, the kid who invented the rally banana.
The Dodgers started off the year by running away with the pennant with a stretch that included 43 wins in 50 games.
Then the bottom fell out.
Nobody could hit. Three pitchers were on the disabled list. The scoreless inning stretch reached 35…almost four full games.
He told Channel 4 Los Angeles how the banana saved the day, “I’m on the bench, I’ve got to help my team somehow, we’ve got to come up with something,'” He said. “So I look around and the first thing I see is a banana and I said, ‘This banana is going to be a rally banana.”
Hernandez even donned a Del Monte banana suit.
It worked. The team stopped losing daily and shuffled into the playoffs.
Shuffling was an improvement after losing 16 of 17.
Hernandez and the banana became local celebrities. He found time to make an appearance for the local library. But, he had to give up the suit. Chiquita came through with an endorsement deal.
It was all silly. But, silly sometimes is the only medicine that cures what ails.
So, focusing on the banana, and then knowing they had survived the worst-of-the-worst baseball-wise, and then knowing Hernandez’ family had survived something much more serious than a baseball skid -a series of hurricanes that pounded his home- the team and Hernandez relaxed and took all three against Arizona and four of five from Chicago.
Joy for a franchise that hadn’t made the World Series since 1988.
Joy was part of the plan. Sure, it also included: take bad pitches, swing at good pitches, run like hell, throw strikes, and compete.
But, never underestimate the power that bananas had in winning the National League Championship Series.
It was a joy to watch.