The last time he cried was Christmas Day - 'last Christmas or the one before that' - but tears came early for Felix Hernandez today.
In his home in Valencia, Venezuela, filled with family, friends and Venezuelan media, Hernandez took a telephone call from Jack O'Connell of the Baseball Writers Association of America, confirming he'd won the 2010 American League Cy Young Award.
“I don’t have any words to describe how I feel," the Seattle Mariners ace said. "I kept asking, 'Really? Really, I won?' I started crying, my wife started jumping on me, my family was screaming ..."
It was happy chaos for a 24-year-old who has now been recognized as an elite pitcher - even in a season when he won only 13 games.
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"Cy Young has to be most dominant pitcher, not just the most wins," he said. "My numbers this year better than last. I thought I should win it, but I was nervous but my wife said ‘you’re going to get it, believe in yourself.’"
Playing on a team that was historically inept - the Mariners scored fewer runs (519) than any AL team since the use of the designated hitter began - Hernandez got the worst run support in the league. Instead of complaining, Felix praised his teammates.
"My teammates tried to do too much for me. I love all my teammates, they’d always come by and say ''Don't worry about anything, just do your job every fifth day,'" he said. "Wins are important for every pitcher. You work as a team. Baseball is weird - we wanted to win the west, but that didn’t happen. Now I win the Cy Young Awarad and I’m really happy."
One of the first telephone calls Hernandez got was from former pitching coach Rafael Chaves - one of many pitching coachesh he's had in five-plus years with Seattle.
"We had two different coaches this year, and I've had about six so far," Felix said. "I’ve got to do my thing. I have to do the same things. I have to pitch the way I did, the way I have my whole career. I lift, I run, I gotta be strong, go a lot of innings."
A year ago, when he finished second in the Cy Young Award voting to Kansas City's Zack Greinke, Hernandez admitted he was disappointed.
"Last year, I was 19-5, and it hurt a little bit. I looked at my numbers and thought, 'if it wins, it wins'. I thought I had a chance," he said. "After this season, I looked at all my stats and said ‘Wow, look at the numbers I had this season!’
"My mind ws clear. Every time I jumped the (foul) line and went out there, I wanted to give my teammates the chance to win. My team tried so hard to score runs. I believe in those guys. Baseball is hard to figure out."