Hernandez connects for first Major League homer
With family in attendance, designated hitter goes deep in second career game
HOUSTON -- Whatever you do, just don't smile. Look cool. Act like you've been here before. And remember: don't smile.
Enrique Hernandez caught hold of the pitch and sent it floating toward left field. He wasn't sure if it would catch the right-hand side of the Crawford boxes, so he ran with purpose.
Then it landed in the stands and Hernandez, a 22-year-old playing in his second Major League game, had just hit his first career home run in the Astros' 5-2 loss to the Mariners. So please, don't crack a smile. Anything but the smile.
Wait, Hernandez was playing in Triple-A just two days ago. Why wouldn't he want to smile?
"Because you're going to look like a rookie," Hernandez said.
His family had flown in from Puerto Rico for his two home games against the Mariners, along with his girlfriend from California and his host family from Corpus Christi. They could smile. Then again, they weren't the one rounding second.
The whirlwind of Hernandez's last 24 hours only blurred more with the homer on Wednesday. Two days before, Triple-A Oklahoma City's manager Tony DeFrancesco faked a postgame team meeting to deliver the news to Hernandez.
The next morning, he was on a plane and arrived at Minute Maid Park in time for warmups while his family was flying in from Puerto Rico. Hernandez came in during the seventh inning of a slowly moving, double-digit loss for Houston. His first career hit was an RBI double that bounced into the bullpen in right-center field.
He notched another single in the ninth to complete his first ever big league game. He gave both balls to his parents as keepsakes, signed some autographs, hugged his family and just like that, his debut was done.
Sleeping, however, wouldn't be so easy. He's only gotten two hours of it in the last two days.
The first night: "I slept like 30 minutes. I was excited, nervous, anxious… everything but sad."
The second night, after the 2-for-2 debut: "It was one of those things, like this is happening, this is real life. In a way, I wasn't trying to make that day end, make it last the longest."
Hernandez will travel to Los Angeles for the Astros' series against the Angels starting Thursday. Manager Bo Porter said he's not sure in what way, but Hernandez will be in the lineup.
He may not let himself smile, but he's hoping he'll be able to get some sleep. Not a bad request from a rookie.
It honestly feels like I'm still asleep," Hernandez said of the last two days, "like I haven't woken up yet."
Mike Vernon is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.