Drayer: Superstitious Felix Hernandez wasn’t going to jinx James Paxton’s no-hitter for Mariners
TORONTO – A thrilling sight on the field Tuesday night in Toronto as James Paxton and his teammates celebrated his no-hitter against the the Blue Jays.
First baseman Ryon Healy, with the ball in his glove securing the final out, gave the fist pump before rushing to the mound. That’s where Paxton stood, arms stretched above his head awaiting his catcher Mike Zunino for an embrace, smiling and eyes wide. Within seconds his teammates would surround him and the bouncing would commence. The coaches high-fived in the dugout and the Gatorade was soon flying.
Minutes before, a quieter scene. In the break before the bottom of the ninth inning, I stood in the area under the stands between the clubhouse and the dugout waiting to go out to the camera well in preparation for the postgame interview. You could feel the anticipation for what might come. The dugout was quieter than it usually is at this time. A coach on his way from the clubhouse to dugout entrance did not say a word but raised an eyebrow as he walked by.
There was of course nothing to be said. This was it.
As the inning began, I saw from the corner of my eye another figure emerge from the clubhouse. Maybe a clubbie, maybe a trainer, I quickly thought. When I looked up I saw it was a player.
I didn’t say anything, but I knew what was going on. Felix is the most superstitious Mariner by far. We locked eyes. He was clearly conflicted.
“I don’t know what to do, man!” he exclaimed excitedly.
He wanted to take the 30 or so steps forward to the dugout, but something was holding him back. Turns out he had gone back to the clubhouse earlier in the game, and in old school baseball, you don’t change anything if something special is happening. He was trapped by his own superstitions, and at this point of the game he was afraid to break the mojo.
“Felix, you do what you gotta do,” I told him as I headed to the camera well.
I didn’t see if he actually went any further, but since he was one of the last players on the field to celebrate I suspect he waited until the final out before entering the dugout.
In the clubhouse after the game, Felix all but confirmed my suspicions.
“See!” he yelled jubilantly. “I told you!”
Whatever it takes.
— Mariners (@Mariners) May 9, 2018