SCOTTSDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 28: Ramon Hernandez #55 of the Colorado Rockies poses for a portrait during spring training photo day at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on February 28, 2012 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
SCOTTSDALE, Arizona - Ramon Hernandez knows pretty well how hard it is to get into the Major Leagues and stay there. With 13 years of experience since he debuted with the Oakland A's in 1999, he has gone through a long path in becoming one of the most respected catchers in baseball.
It has not been easy at all for the Venezuelan player, born in Caracas but raised in the eastern city of Cumana. His eastern accent is still there, strong and intact, even after all these years in the United States.
"When I was a rookie, I never had the chance to play alongside an experienced Venezuelan-born catcher, or Latin-born for that matter," Hernandez recalled. "I learned a lot thanks to the A's pitching coach during those years, he was always there with me".
And that is why Hernandez has always been willing to support young up-and-coming catchers and pitchers - ideal for an organization such as the Colorado Rockies.
Colorado is the fifth organization Hernandez belongs to during his Major League tenure, and he couldn't have gotten here in a better time, with young, promising catchers such as Wilin Rosario and Jordan Pacheco.
"I'm always willing to help, especially considering he's so full of promise, like Wilin is. I believe he has a tremendous potential and he will be such an amazing player, and I'm sure he'll be the catcher for this organization for a long time. I'll help him as much as I can," Hernandez said.
"When I see a young player like him, I always guide him. When I was his age, I wasn't so lucky, I didn't have a veteran catcher to support me. When you do that, it makes me so proud to think I can make an impact on their careers and lives, that also helps them in order to build a better future and life quality for their families. That's why I will always help them so they can become better players and better people," Hernandez said.
When it comes to young pitchers, Hernandez also has the formula so their work between catcher and pitcher is successful, beyond that day's boxscore.
"You support them so they can be prepared before game time; so they can have a defined plan and it's not about trying to come up with anything as the game goes along," Hernandez said.
The Venezuelan backstop is also having a reunion of sorts alongside Rafael Betancourt, who played with him back in Cumana when they were children, and has now been named the Rockies closer.
"Working with Rafael has been amazing. I'm so lucky to be able to find at the Major League level a player who you have been with when you were younger. It's also something so nice for me to find him and see him becoming the player he is today. We'll have a 'Cumana connection' at the end of the game, so it will be great," Hernandez said.