|Jan Hernandez, image- Jay Floyd|
The thing that will stick with Hernandez the most is a single notion.
"Family is everything," Hernandez said at Trenton's ARM & HAMMER Park this week.
Hernandez, who resides in San Lorenzo, a town on the eastern side of the island, took on a role of provider for his family in the face of devastation last year. He had to help his parents, his uncle and his grandmother. Twice daily hunts for gasoline to run a generator for their home went along with constant searches for water.
A problem with being away from home during those trying times, Hernandez says, is that the family's property and any accumulated gas and water left behind was then at risk of being stolen by someone looking to take advantage of the situation. As if things weren't bad enough, that happened to a relative of his.
"You have to know who's your neighbor, who's close to you and you can't trust anybody," Hernandez explained. "And in those situations you have to be with your family in your house and don't trust anybody. And that was tough. Seriously, that was tough."
The responsibility and troubling times had an impact on the 23-year-old. Forced to take on considerable responsibility, Hernandez matured swiftly.
As electricity and running water were restored to certain areas of the island, Hernandez, the Phillies' 3rd round draft pick in 2013, looked forward to getting back on the baseball field. The Roberto Clemente League, Puerto Rico's winter outfit, would get their storm-shortened season underway in January, which gave Hernandez something else that he loved, besides his family, to focus on.
The competition in Puerto Rico gave the six-foot-two 216 pound righty batter some additional time to work on his positional switch to the outfield after a move from third base was initiated last year while he was with Class A Advanced Clearwater.
"With the transition from third base to the outfield playing (in the Roberto Clemente League) helped me a lot," Hernandez said. "I was still dealing with recovery from Hurricane Maria, but those games became my main focus and I played those ball games to help my team win."
Through the first couple months of the Double-A season this year, Hernandez is looking very comfortable in the outfield, playing both right field and center field, displaying a laser arm and quality range on defense.
On the offensive side of the game, he has shined there as well. His .318 average ranks among the Eastern League's top 10 and he's notched seven doubles, a triple, four homers and 25 RBI through 43 games to date with the Reading Fightin Phils.
Hernandez describes the strength of his team is their chemistry. Everyone believes in one another and each of them goes hard at all times to pick up or support every player around him. The relationships that blossom from that kind of backing are like those of a family, which is of highest importance, of course, to Hernandez.
Reading closed out the month of May by winning seven of nine games. Hernandez recorded three multi-hit games and drove in 11 runs during that stretch.
He has played well enough to impress Reading manager Greg Legg, who has been around professional baseball dating back to 1982.
"He's having some success and he keeps growing," Legg shared. "Jan's getting after it. He's erasing tough games, bouncing back with big games. It's fun to watch him. I think the outfield freed him up a little bit too. Just lets him play and be himself."
Being himself is a concept that includes much more than solid ball playing skills and hard work around the baseball diamond. For Jan to be himself, he must strive and help and care and lead.
Here's hoping he can continue to do all those things as he climbs his way toward the big stage of playing with the Phillies.
For anyone interested in donating toward the continued recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, my wife swears this is a legitimate organization that's doing good things down there-- https://www.delivering-good.org/bstrong/