Dominican outfielder for the Fresno Grizzlies Teoscar Hernández, sporting the No. 16 jersey, has already hit three homers and 10 RBIs for the Triple-A club of the Houston Astros.
Hernández, the son of a miner, comes from a working class neighborhood in the Dominican Republic country. Baseball is hailed among thousands of young Dominicans like Hernández all with aspirations of making the majors in the United States.
Hernández, age 24 and born in Cotuí, was no different. He learned to play baseball on a dirt street of a small Dominican tenancy. He caught the eyes of several scouts searching for talent in the Dominican Republic. He was drafted by the Houston Astros as an 18-year-old and was sent to a sort of baseball academy set up in the Dominican Republic.
“When I was like five years in Dominican. I started playing in the street on the dirt. There was a lot of rocks; a lot houses around. Sometimes we didn’t get the ball back. Those were the best times ever playing with my friends,” said Hernández recalling his youth in a conversation on April 20.
He just had batting practice and was running the bases with several teammates ahead of a homestand against the Las Vegas 51s, which the Grizzlies won 10-3.
He gets nostalgic thinking of his childhood and the days that his father, Teofilo Hernández, worked as a miner to sustain the family. And he soon talks about his favorite Dominican dish: Arroz, pollo y habichuelas, he said, which translates to rice, chicken and beans.
He also remembers his big break in 2011, the year he signed with the Astros. It was just before his 18th birthday that he was competing in the Dominican Summer League. The following year he came to the United States, specifically Florida, where he suited up for the Astros lower division team competing in the Gulf Coast League.
Teoscar, a 180-pound rightfielder has already hit three homers and 10 RBIs for the Grizzlies. He’s been anywhere from three to six on the batting order. He played 41 games with the parent club Astros in the majors last year. In the Astros uniform, he struck his first big league homer last August. He’s also on the Astros Active 40-man roster.
Teofilo, a former softball player, no longer works in the mines. He doesn’t need to because Teoscar sends much of his Triple-A earnings back home to support his father and mother, Carmen Hernández, and his younger sibling, José Hernández. Jose, a 21-year-old first baseman and outfielder, was released from his Minor league assignment just about a month ago. Teoscar has an older sibling, a newlywed and living away from home.
Nearly speaking perfect English, Teoscar has assimilated well in the U.S. and among his Grizzlies’ teammates. He shops Walmart for the ingredients to prepare his favorite dish, but admits keeping in shape and exercise is paramount to being a rostered player for the Grizzlies.
“It took me three years to learn English. And it’s helped me a lot to communicate with my teammates, the media, my manager,” said Teoscar.
Last year he suited up for the Corpus Christi in the Double-A Texas League. He also spent a portion in the 2016 off-season suiting up for the Toros in the Dominican Winter League.
“Everytime you play, it’s your time to learn. I’m not thinking about the big leagues while I’m here, I’m just trying to do my best. And when it comes, I’ll be ready,” he said.
The Grizzlies opened a five-game homestand with one game against Las Vegas today (April 21) at 7:05 p.m. and the remainder against Salt Lake through April 25. Friday and Saturday, the first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. On Sunday, game starts at 1:05 p.m. Monday’s game is at 6:35 p.m. And Tuesday, the first pitch is 11:05 a.m.