SEATTLE — His hands trembled, his breath quickened and his eyes began to fill with tears. Felix Hernandez looked down at the piece of paper containing details of the largest contract ever placed in front of a pitcher and emotion took over.
Hernandez never hid his desire to be with the Seattle Mariners, even when he seemed destined for a bigger market, a bigger stage to showcase one of the most dynamic arms in baseball.
So when Hernandez signed his new seven-year contract on Wednesday with the Mariners to become the highest-paid pitcher in baseball, his goal of staying with the only franchise he's even known became reality.
That's why he nervously shook and paused on multiple occasions to gain his composure. It was raw. It was genuine.
It was why he's become affectionately known by Seattle fans as King Felix.
"I always say that this is home," Hernandez said. "This is my life."
The $175 million pact covered the final two years of his existing deal that was scheduled to run through the 2014 season and added five additional years through the 2019 season. The contract is fully guaranteed, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. Hernandez also got a full no-trade clause, the first one given by the franchise.
King Felix got a ransom — and then some.
Why not? For a franchise that's gone more than a decade since last reaching the postseason, Hernandez is the best thing the Mariners have going. Hernandez never wanted to try the open market and Zduriencik was going to make sure his ace never left.
Scott Pucino, one of Hernandez's representatives, said his client bluntly told him last May that the job was to keep him in Seattle.
It was a long process that appeared to be further delayed by reports late last week that there could be an issue with Hernandez's elbow. Zduriencik said team doctors gave Hernandez was given a "clean bill of health."
"I'm different. It's the way my family raised me. If you feel comfortable in a place — now I'm the reporter — if you feel comfortable and happy and you believe in people, are you going to go anywhere?" Hernandez said. "I'm different. I'm different. It happened."