Javier Hernandez is known for his energy, but he’s prone to falling asleep at work.
Two weeks ago, Hernandez was at Melaleuca Field for his part-time job as the Idaho Falls Chukars’ public address announcer. During the game, Hernandez didn’t announce the name of an opposing player who came up to bat.
Hernandez also failed to announce the next batter. The Chukars intern sitting next to Hernandez looked over. Hernandez’s eyes were closed. The intern tapped Hernandez, who awoke in confusion.
“It was one of those long days,” Hernandez said.
That was the only time Hernandez, 34, fell asleep while announcing a Chukars game. With the hours he works, it’s amazing Hernandez, in his second year as the PA announcer, hasn’t fallen asleep on the job more often.
“By the end of a homestand, I’m ready for it to be over,” Hernandez said. “But the flipside is, ‘Man, this is baseball. This is awesome.’ It’s short season, so enjoy it while you can.”
Earlier this summer, Hernandez was promoted to assistant store manager at Lowe’s in Idaho Falls. But with it came demanding hours.
During various weekdays, Hernandez has to be at Lowe’s by 5 a.m. He gets off around 3 or 4 p.m., which gives him about an hour to go home and say hi to his wife, Nicole. Then he heads to Melaleuca Field to start his shift as the PA announcer. If it’s a quick game, he might be home before 10 p.m.
Hernandez, who gets paid per game, works two jobs so he can afford his children’s education. Gavin, 8, and Ava, 3, Hernandez attend Watersprings Christian.
“(Nicole) supports me in knowing that this is going toward a good cause,” Hernandez said. “It’s taking care of my family’s needs.”
Hernandez admits the hours are draining, but he loves announcing baseball game. It helps that he’s good at it.
“He brings a really polished presence up there,” Chukars general manager Kevin Greene said. “He does as well as any announcers we’ve had.”
Jordan Beckstead has been the Chukars’ scoreboard operator for more than two decades, so he’s seen his share of PA announcers. Some have been good, some haven’t. Beckstead recalled one announcer throwing a chair in anger during one game.
“Other guys used to get really angry when they’d mess up because they were perfectionists,” Beckstead said. “(Hernandez) doesn’t do that, and that’s what I like.”
Hernandez and Beckstead’s relationship started outside the press box. They were a year apart at Bonneville High School.
“He was always really personable back then, too,” Beckstead said. “Really popular guy, friend to everyone, just like he is now.”
It doesn’t matter if Hernandez messes up a name or has a rough day at Lowe’s. He’s always friendly, his voice always booming.
Even when he dozes at the mic.
“This is a stress reliever,” Hernandez said. “I can’t believe I get paid to do this.”
The Chukars are still battling Ogden for the second-half crown in the Pioneer League South Division. But if they clinch, here’s how the playoffs would look.
Since Orem won the first half South title, it gets homefield advantage in the best-of-three playoff series. That means I.F. would host the first game of the series Wednesday, and Orem would host the second game Thursday and, if necessary, the third game Friday.
Whoever wins that series faces the winner of the North series in the championship. The North gets homefield advantage during odd years, so the 2015 Pioneer League champion will have to win the title in Montana.
Here is a timeline of the week in the Chukars’ roster moves:
Sunday, Aug. 30 — Chukars add infielder Gabriel Noriega (rehab) from Triple-A Omaha and right-handed pitchers Jacob Bonder and Matt Ditman from Rookie-league Burlington.
Monday — Chukars add righty Julio Pinto and catcher Xavier Hernandez from Burlington.
Wednesday — Chukars add outfielder Rudy Martin from the Arizona League and infielders Jose Martinez and Brandon Dulin from Burlington.
Thursday — Chukars add infielder Carlos Diaz and lefty Nicholas Andros from the Arizona League. Noriega ends his rehab stint and returns to Omaha.
Since this is the final Chukars Notebook of 2015, the weekly “Who’s Hot? Who’s Not?” feature will award the hottest and coldest Chukars of the season.
THE ‘WHO’S HOT?’ PLAYER OF THE YEAR
OF Amalani Fukofuka
This was an agonizing choice between Fukofuka and first baseman Josh Banuelos. The deciding factors were Fukofuka’s speed and defense.
Through Friday, the 19-year-old outfielder was second on the team behind Banuelos with a .340 batting average (among players with at least 100 plate appearances). But Fukofuka had a team-best .896 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, thanks to his 18 doubles (second behind Banuelos), nine triples (second behind Marten Gasparini), two home runs and 24 walks. Through Friday, Fukofuka had 299 plate appearances, tied for first on the Chukars with Banuelos.
Fukofuka is also sixth on the team with 10 stolen bases. He’s made several highlight catches in the outfield and has committed only six errors in 64 games.
Fukofuka and Banuelos were the lone representatives on the Pioneer League’s postseason all-star team, as well.
THE ‘WHO’S NOT?’ PLAYER OF THE YEAR
3B Ryan Dale
Left-handed pitcher Hunter Haynes (7.04 ERA, 27 strikeouts, 24 walks) narrowly avoided this dubious honor thanks to a strong second half. Dale has played poorly in the second half, although his struggles aren’t exclusive to the last 35 games.
Through Friday, Dale was batting .208 with a .628 OPS. Other than recent addition Rudy Martin, who had four plate appearances through Friday, Dale has been the Chukars’ worst batter this season. He’s also committed 10 errors.
Not everything has been negative for Dale. The Australian hit a game-winning home run at Helena on Aug. 7, and he’s shown good patience at the plate (.328 on-base percentage).