He's still won more games than any other pitcher in Nationals history, throwing more innings and recording more strikeouts than anyone who has ever worn the uniform. He started on Opening Day three times, threw the first pitch in a major-league ballgame in Washington, D.C., in 34 years and remains one of the most popular players to wear a curly W cap over the last eight seasons.
So it shouldn't come as much surprise to learn Livan Hernandez still reserves a special place in his heart for the Nationals and for the city of Washington. And it shouldn't come as a surprise to learn the veteran right-hander was watching last night when the Nationals clinched their first-ever playoff berth and felt an emotional tug for his ex-teammates exchanging high-fives in the middle of the diamond.
By quirk of the schedule, Hernandez happens to find himself at Nationals Park this weekend, now a member of the Brewers bullpen (after pitching for the Braves earlier this season) and trying to help his current club make a late push for its own postseason berth.
The 37-year-old pitcher known and loved by the Nationals and their fans simply as "Livo" took time this afternoon to discuss his feelings for his former team, a town that still feels like home to him and the possibility he and the Brewers could wind up making another trip to D.C. in the coming weeks...
Q: Does it mean anything for you to see the Nationals going to the playoffs for the first time?
A: Yeah, it's nice. I have a lot of friends there, and I'm happy for everybody. Because you know, making the playoffs, as a baseball player, this is what you're looking for. Mike Rizzo, I think, he deserves a lot of credit. He put a great group of people together. And more important than the group of people, there's a lot of chemistry inside. That was very important. I think he deserves a lot of credit, because he did a good job of that. Everybody there plays hard every day. It's good. I'm very happy for them. And I'm happy for the city. The city deserves something like that. It's a city that likes sports, and you can see it with football. Ten years, sold out. That's crazy. Baseball needs something like this, and it happened yesterday. I'm really happy for them."
Q: You felt like this could become a big baseball town?
A: Yep. Always. It's like everything, you've got to win some games. They won this year. When we came back in 2005, everyday (we had big crowds). We were winning, too. Every game was sold out. That was great. This city needs something like this. And now with no hockey, you've got a good team here. So you've got more people watching baseball."
Q: Does any part of you wish you could've been a part of this?
A: No, because I was there last year, I helped a lot of people. I'm really happy with what I did there, mentally with the young guys. I can't say nothing else. These people are happy, and I'm happy, too."
Q: You feel like you helped get them to this point?
A: I helped a lot of people. Sometimes I don't get the credit, but I know what I did. I know everybody knows what I did there. It's great. It's something I feel happy for, and a lot of people know what I did. There's a lot of people playing good baseball now and pitching good, like Detwiler. You need that guy, because that guy's really good. And Jordan is doing great. All the people from the bullpen. These people are really happy they made the playoffs, and I'm happy. I'll go and enjoy it, too, like I'm playing there. Because I've got a lot of friends there. But we've got to play baseball. We're in the race now. I don't know if we're going to make it or not."
Q: Maybe these two teams will play each other in the playoffs?
A: Maybe. Let's see what happens. I'm really happy here, and we're playing good baseball.