On the mound, they dubbed him “The Mosquito.”
With a 90 mph two-seam fastball that challenged the likes of Albert Pujols at the plate in the minors, he commanded his craft with precision and velocity.
These days, Elvis Hernandez has a different title: pitching coach at Seymour High School.
Hailing from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Hernandez has a plethora of baseball knowledge and playing experience.
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Those skills have aided Seymour’s pitching for the past two years.
“I like to help, especially with the younger kids,” Hernandez said. “It’s one of my dreams. It’s amazing, awesome, working with these coaches.
“My goal is to help as many kids play in college or professional baseball. I want to be here in Seymour and help my little community. I want to stay here for a long time.”
Hernandez played in the Dominican Republic for 19 years until joining an MLB feeder academy.
“The St. Louis Cardinals organization brought me (to the United States),” Hernandez said. “I was a free agent and signed in 2005. I played one year in (the) Dominican Republic then came here. Every Major League Baseball team has an academy home and signs younger players. You play one year in the Dominican summer league before coming here.”
In the United States, Hernandez first played for the Johnson City Cardinals, in Tennessee, in 2006.
The pitcher then played four seasons in the minors with the Swing of the Quad Cities, Palm Beach and Springfield Cardinals.
He said that he became friends with many MLB players during the time, including Yadier Molina and Jaime Garcia.
“Everybody, when I played baseball, they said my two-seamer was unhittable,” Hernandez said. “When I threw my two-seamer, it was nice. If I didn’t have my injury, I would be playing in the big leagues. I hurt my oblique, and it never got better.”
Hernandez left the diamond in 2009 because of the oblique injury and moved to Seymour after meeting his wife, a teacher, in 2010.
He started working at a local fast food chain for a year before joining Seymour’s custodial staff.
It was during that time in Indiana when he started working with the Owls’ program as a volunteer.
The biggest difference Hernandez noticed in the United States was the focus on individual sports.
“Down there, I feel like people are more hungry to play baseball and only play one sport,” Hernandez said. “I like it here because you have every sport at the school. At home, you have to take a car or bus to play.”
He attempted to return to the field in 2011, as he played for the independent Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings, but wouldn’t return due to re-injury.
“(Hernandez) came around and long-tossed with coaches and players afterwards when he was in Seymour,” Owls coach Jeremy Richey recalled. “We built a relationship, and when he came back from Texas I asked him if he was interested. He has been with us since then.
“He’s a very driven person; he wants to throw with these kids. My son, who is nine years old, comes out and wants to throw like him. It’s so cool for our kids. It’s a unique situation that our kids might sometimes take for granted.”
While his pitching credentials helped land a spot as a coach, Hernandez also brings intangibles to the team.
“There are two things about Elvis that makes our program and school better: his knowledge and attitude — what he brings to us everyday,” Richey said. “He’s a very hard worker. Even when things are going bad, he puts perspective into it in a positive way.”
Moving forward, Richey expects his pitchers to raise their game with Hernandez on the staff.
“I think that this will be the year you really see it since now we’re in year two of how he wants to do it,” Richey said. “You saw huge jumps last year in Mitchell Moore. I expect that across the board now.
“(Hernandez) has spent a lot of time with these kids and built relationships. The biggest thing will be command — throwing strikes and putting us in a position to win. He demands strikes from our pitchers and doesn’t want walks. He brings different drills from (Dominican Republic) and we’re excited to see where it brings us.”