Mariners ace looks to family, baseball for inspiration
By Andrew Erickson
SEATTLE -- Felix Hernandez's love of baseball is exceeded only by his love for family. And those two can be seen visually in the tattooed artwork that helps make him one of baseball's most colorful characters.
If you've observed the Mariners' ace kiss his wrists then point to the sky after pitching a complete game, there's a simple reason: Just below his right hand on the inside of his wrist he has the name and birthdate of his daughter, Mia; he has the same on his left wrist for his son, Jeremy.
Since 2008, Hernandez has continued to add illustrations and reminders of important people and moments in his life, but it often isn't noticeable, hidden underneath the long sleeves he sports for each start.
The Aries sign he had inked on the right side of his neck in late 2012 is the only tattoo baseball fans might see during one of Hernandez's starts. For that reason, it required a lengthy discussion with his wife, Sandra.
"She's like, 'Are you sure? Because you always pitch with long sleeves, nobody knows that you've got tattoos,'" Hernandez said. "'So that one there, people are going to know that you're pretty much filled.'
"She said, 'If you like it, just draw it, put a stencil on it and I'll let you know if it looks good.' She looked and said, 'I think it's gonna look good.' So I did it."
The neck tattoo didn't make for his longest day under the needle -- Hernandez said he once fell asleep during an eight-hour session -- but it was one of his more painful experiences.
"This one took like three hours because I was like, 'Wait a minute, wait a minute,'" he said, laughing.
Hernandez has been slowly building designs on his arms, back and chest since first getting praying hands and a cross tattoo on his upper left arm in 2008. It's a lot of ink to trust to one person, but his go-to artist for years has been Olmy Rosenstock, an Oakland-based tattoo artist who is popular among a few Major League players, including the Rangers' Prince Fielder.
Most of Hernandez's stencils are professionally made, though he has added a couple colorful tattoos with ideas from his family. On his right forearm is an orange flower, the design of which was originally drawn by his daughter.
His son's handwriting and love of Legos inspired a "Legos para mi papi" tattoo to the right of his right shoulder blade. Hernandez also has a cross tattoo on his left hand, a heart on his left ring finger and two hearts and an arrow on his back for his wife.
There are fewer illustrated reminders of Hernandez the baseball player, but they have accumulated over the years. There's the crown with a cross and his No. 34 on his right forearm as well as the lion -- the king of the jungle for King Felix -- on his left forearm.
A right arm that has logged more than 2,200 Major League innings reads "FEARLESS" and is complemented by five stars for five of his six All-Star Game selections. Hernandez said a sixth star is on the way this offseason.
"I've got to put '15 here," Hernandez said. "I've got to finish a few, do more stuff."
Hernandez said he will likely continue to add to his right arm and chest, and perhaps add another neck tattoo in the future. Family and All-Star Game appearances will continue to provide inspiration for that ink, but there are achievements, including his Cy Young Award in 2010 and his perfect game from August '12, that won't appear in tattoo form.
Some things, he says, are best left as memories.
"My friend was like, 'You should get something for the perfect game,'" Hernandez said. "I was like, 'Eh, not sure.' I don't think I need that."
Andrew Erickson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.