Luis Hernandez Interview

The Braves have a couple of minor league shortstops that could one day become starters in the big leagues. Luis Hernandez is arguably the best defensive player to ever wear a Braves uniform. He's that good! Hernandez is headed for his first big league spring training camp, and it's likely he'll start the 2005 season in AA Mississippi. With the help of one of Hernandez's good friends, BravesCenter's Bill Shanks talked with Luis about his upcoming season.

BRAVESCENTER: What were you trying to accomplish last year in Myrtle Beach?

HERNANDEZ: When I went to Myrtle Beach I had just come off a pretty good season in Rome, especially in the playoffs. My main goal was to continue to increase my batting average and reduce my strike out numbers.

BRAVESCENTER: Myrtle Beach is known as a pitcher's park. Were you surprised at how tough it was?

HERNANDEZ: Yes... extremely surprised. I had always heard about Myrtle Beach being a pitcher's park and the Carolina League being a pitcher's league. I knew that I might be in for a bumpy ride. So when I finished with a .271 batting average, I was pleased with my progress considering the circumstances.

BRAVESCENTER: 6 homers? Was that a surprise that you were able to generate that much power? Can you hit between 6-10 homers a season?

HERNANDEZ: (Laughing) I was surprised, myself. I never expected six home runs while playing in the Carolina League. Like I said, the league certainly favors pitchers, so hitting six home runs was a shock to me. But hitting six homeruns boosted my confidence. I'll certainly be shooting for at least ten in the years to come.

BRAVESCENTER: What do you need to do to become even more of a better offensive player?

HERNANDEZ: Hit line drives. I also want to increase my on base percentage and increase my number of walks. Plate discipline.

BRAVESCENTER: What about being patient at the plate? Do you want more walks in Pearl?

HERNANDEZ: Most definitely. It's going to be my most important priority in Mississippi.

BRAVESCENTER: Tell us how you got so great defensively? Did you do anything special to learn how to catch the ball so well?

HERNANDEZ: It was a daily thing for me. When I was younger, my dad took me to the stadium every day. At that time, it seemed as if he were throwing me a thousand ground balls (laughing). I played on little league teams during the season, but my dad always made baseball a year-round thing. We would spend nearly three hours at the stadium working on fielding. I can definitely thank my dad for my defensive skills.

BRAVESCENTER: Since you are known as a great defender and a light hitter is there pressure to improve offensively to become a more complete player?

HERNANDEZ: Not too much, maybe a little. Every day, I try to do my very best and put all of the pressure behind me. Without a doubt, I think about the things I need to do to become that 'well-rounded' player, but I get after it 110% daily. As long as I'm doing that, the pressure I face is easy to put behind.

BRAVESCENTER: How close do you feel you are to being ready for the big leagues?

HERNANDEZ: Defensively, I feel like I've been ready for a while. I really think it's going to depend on how well I hit the ball in Mississippi. Of course, I'm hoping for a September call-up, but another complete year in Mississippi would give me time to strengthen my offensive skills and plate discipline. I'm confident that I'll be ready to go by September.

BRAVESCENTER: How excited are you about going to big-league camp? Is making a good first impression one of your goals?

HERNANDEZ: Going to big-league camp is something I've always dreamed about. I think it's every 'little-leaguer's' dream. Being there with the big guys is such a pleasure. I'll be flying into Orlando on February 20, and I'm definitely looking forward to it. The coaches there know my strengths and weaknesses already. I'm ready to get there and show them just how much I have improved since last March. It's a great opportunity, not only for myself, but also for all of the guys there.

BRAVESCENTER: Is it difficult not to think about Furcal possibly leaving as a free agent next winter, and that a good season in AA might put you in the picture for 2006?

HERNANDEZ: Oh...I think about it daily. Knowing that with a good season in AA I could earn a starting spot certainly makes me work hard every single day. It's definitely a good source of motivation and encouragement.

BRAVESCENTER: Since your defense is so good, do you feel like you just need to prove to the Braves that you can hit in order to convince them that you can be an everyday big leaguer?

HERNANDEZ: This is exactly what I'm working on now. I've proved myself at great levels with my defense. I'm confident in all aspects of that area. Strengthening my offensive skills is a top priority. I know it's something that I have to do to get myself to the highest level of competition.

BRAVESCENTER: When you look back on the guys who were with you in Rome a few years ago, is it exciting to believe that a lot of you could reunite in Atlanta in the big leagues in a year or two?

HERNANDEZ: Oh yes! The guys I play with like Francoeur, McCann, and O.J. (his best friend Onil Joseph) those guys are like my brothers. I came here without a single relative, but I have definitely made a family here in America. Those guys make me feel like I'm at home in Venezuela, and to know that one day, we may all be in Atlanta playing for the Braves is a tremendously exciting feeling. They are all great players, and to know that we have been friends for so long and may one day reunite in Atlanta is a feeling that I can't explain. It's special. I can hardly wait for that day when I can play in Atlanta and be surrounded by my own Braves family.

Bill Shanks can be reached at

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