Hernandez: The Doubles Machine

Every coach wishes he could have multiple versions of his best player; luckily for UC Irvine baseball Head Coach Mike Gillespie, he may have two.

While Jeff Cusick is undoubtedly the best hitter on the team this season, Brian Hernandez is clicking at his heels. Hernandez ranks second amongst regular starters, right behind Cusick, in batting average (.329), doubles (12) and RBIs (34). He is also tied for second in home runs with three.

When told that Cusick has him beat in those categories, especially in the category that everyone was so confident he would dominate that they gave him a nickname for it (“Doubles Machine”), Hernandez replies,

“For now.”

The rivalry with Cusick is all out of love; he is his roommate and closest friend on the team, and it’s just a competition that is only going to benefit the team. Hernandez is quick to praise and is ultra-appreciative of the pitches he receives courtesy of Cusick batting behind him in the cleanup spot.

But this story isn’t about Cusick — he has his own story. Instead, let’s get up to speed on the “Doubles Machine.”

Hernandez came into UCI last season, but was greeted with a tumultuous beginning. Due to a miscommunication with transfer documents when he came over from the College of the Canyons, Hernandez was forced to utilize a redshirt and watch as the Anteaters were ousted in their Regional playoff group. That was an experience Hernandez would never like to live out again, but an experience he may have learned the most from.

“I didn’t really dwell on things. What was done was done, I couldn’t do anything about it. My family really helped me through it, and I got to get a lot of school done. It was really tough staying home when the team went on the road, but I feel like it made me a better player and a better person,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez’s patience paid off as he went to Massachusetts over the summer to participate in college baseball’s most prestigious summer league in Cape Cod. He played for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox and helped them win a division title while batting .244 with 32 hits, seven doubles and 16 RBIs in his first division one action.

If that didn’t make him feel like a part of the elite, then his living situation did. Hernandez’s host family last summer had previously hosted big leaguers Matt LaPorta (the main piece of the Milwaukee Brewers-Cleveland Indians trade for C.C. Sabathia two years ago), Tony Sanchez (a first-round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates), and Gordan Beckham (second baseman for the Chicago White Sox).

Families have played a big part in Hernandez’s life, and he feels tremendously indebted to his closest one. He is the fourth of six siblings, three of whom have been added through marriage but are nonetheless as much a part of the family to Brian, and the first in his family to go to college or to even play baseball. With that support he has found a way to keep playing at his best, which is, according to him, through “consistency.”
“You have to keep yourself grounded during the highs, and remind yourself that you can do it in your lows. Baseball is a very tough sport when it comes to that,” Hernandez said.
It is no coincidence that he and Cusick have the same philosophy or that the teammate he learned most from is Ben Orloff or that his favorite major league baseball player of all time is Mr. Consistency himself, Cal “Ironman” Ripken Jr.

Hernandez is a hitter who has very few holes at the plate. He feasts off of fastballs that are middle and away, and can even make pitchers pay if they cannot dial in their off-speed stuff. His talent and approach are what make him a ubiquitous presence on each game’s box score.

Although he sometimes fancies playing in a smaller ballpark, he has no problem with developing a reputation as a Doubles Machine, for machines do what they are built to do at an unnaturally consistent basis.

If Hernandez continues to do what he does and the rest of the team matches his consistency, there is no reason for this seasoned team not to catch a steady fire and carry it from the end of the season through the postseason in Omaha.