Baseball bonds Kiké and dad from early age

Baseball bonds Kiké and dad from early age

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- At age 12, Enrique Hernandez thought he had killed his father.

While hitting baseballs with his dad, Enrique Sr., he smashed a line drive right back up the middle. The ball struck his father in the chest. The child's first instinct was not to check on his injured father -- it was to find his phone.

"I panicked," Hernandez said. "I called my mom and said, 'I killed my dad. I hit him in the chest.'"

It turned out Hernandez's father was fine, and their daily baseball sessions continued. Enrique Sr., who would go on to serve as a scout for clubs such as the Pittsburgh Pirates, had seen his dream pass him by. He didn't want the same to happen to his son.

Enrique Sr. had hoped to play in the big leagues, but the Draft didn't reach Puerto Rico at the time. Then a car accident ruined any chance of him signing as a free agent. When Enrique, known as Kiké, was born, the elder Hernandez saw a chance for the son to live out the father's dream.

Hernandez's diving grab

"He always had that chip on his shoulder, and I guess he saw that potential in me -- that he could live his dream through my eyes," Kiké Hernandez said.

The after-school tradition began early in Hernandez's life, and not always to his liking.

"At the beginning, it was a hassle for me," he said. "I kind of felt obligated because I didn't know how to say no to my dad. After that, we created a habit, and I was really looking forward to it every day. I couldn't wait to get out of school and bond with my dad."

The passion and work ethic grew as Hernandez did, and their competitions got closer. Each day after practice, the two would race and Enrique Sr. would win.

Finally, when Hernandez was 13, he beat his dad in the race.

"I still remember that day," he recalled. "I trash-talked him so much."

Hernandez's career would blossom. At 18, he was selected in the sixth round of the Draft by the Astros. Hernandez would crack the big leagues in 2014, and after a quick stop in Miami, he became a fan favorite with the Dodgers.

Hernandez found a niche in the Majors as a utility player, along with a reputation for goofy antics such as donning a banana suit in the clubhouse.

Hernandez's pregame smooch

While his dad doesn't share the same passion for "clown stuff," he does bond with his son through baseball. Hernandez said about 75 to 80 percent of their conversations revolve around baseball.

The rest of the time, they would usually sit together in awkward silence.

Their conversations took a turn outside of the sport last season when Enrique Sr. was diagnosed with cancer. Being away from his father during that time was difficult for Hernandez, especially when his mom sent a photo of his father with a newly shaved head.

"It was a reality check," Hernandez said.

In a sign of solidarity, Hernandez, who at the time sported long locks, shaved his head bald. Four days later, on Father's Day, Hernandez launched a game-tying pinch-hit home run in a 2-1 victory over the Brewers.

Hernandez's game-tying home run

Like the Dodgers that day, Enrique Sr. would win his battle. He received a bone marrow transplant that June, and in October, he learned his cancer was in remission.

Now, the father has a new lease on life and the son has a new outlook on baseball, the game they love.

"My mind can rest in peace off the field and I can just focus on baseball," Hernandez said.

Fabian Ardaya is a senior majoring in journalism at Arizona State University. This story is part of a Cactus League partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.