Hernandez Is Having The Time Of Her Life
July 8, 2007
The old saying about one door closing and another opening couldn't be more true for 2005 Bristol Central graduate Davina Hernandez, who is spending this summer as part of the Puerto Rico national softball team.
Last summer, Hernandez was part of the Connecticut District 5 softball team that played in the championship game of the Big League Softball World Series in Kalamazoo, Mich., a contest which was later televised by ESPN2.
While the local squad lost that game, Hernandez got noticed by the coaches from the Puerto Rico team competing there and was initially invited to represent the island commonwealth in the Junior Pan American Games with its 19 and under national team. It turned out she was born just a couple of months too soon to qualify for that team, but after completing her sophomore season with the University of Massachusetts this past May, she received another invitation - this time to try out for the Puerto Rico national team that will be seeking a berth in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.
Her first stop was in Florida in late May for an initial tryout, where Hernandez was one of just two women chosen from there to go to Puerto Rico in early June to play in a summer league which had many of the players trying out for the national team competing against one another. Her per-formance there earned Hernandez a spot on the team and by the end of the month the squad was in Canada competing in its first tournament together: the Canada Cup in Surrey, British Columbia.
Puerto Rico went 0-6 in the tournament, which has its championship game scheduled for today. Hernandez was 3-for-14 batting (.214) with a run scored, two doubles, five RBI, a walk and a stolen base. Of Puerto Rico's 11 runs in the tournament, Hernandez, batting in the No. 2 spot, accounted for more than half of them with a run scored or RBI.
Right now, the team members - most of whom have only known each other for a few weeks now - are just trying to get acquainted and begin to jell, Hernandez said.
"It's kind of hard," she said, noting that some of the players only speak Spanish, while others only speak English.
"It's a big learning experience within the team," she said. "This is our first time actually playing as a team together."
Puerto Rico has been more competitive than the Canada Cup results might indicate, Hernandez said, despite playing against teams that have had their core players competing regularly together for as many as 10 years.
Against Chinese Taipei on Thursday, for instance, Puerto Rico was leading 2-1 and had a no-hitter going before Chinese Taipei scored eight runs to win via the mercy rule.
"We do have the players and we do have the team to do it," Hernandez said. Puerto Rico faced team USA on July 1 and lost 10-0 in a mercy rule shortened three-inning game after USA scored all 10 of its runs in the first inning, before Puerto Rico's top pitcher entered the game.
Playing against the USA team was an interesting situation for Hernandez, who was born and raised in the USA but is eligible for the Puerto Rico national team because her grandparents were born there.
"You admire these people growing up," she said, noting that USA shortstop Natasha Watley used to be her idol growing up - Hernandez played shortstop at Bristol Central - but after changing positions to the outfield herself, she's now a fan of USA outfielder Jessica Mendoza.
"You don't want to admire the team you're going to be playing against, but it's kind of hard not to," she said.
Before the game Hernandez and the other Puerto Rico team members - many of whom, like Hernandez, were also born and raised in the USA - had time to meet with the USA players.
"A lot of them are really nice and humble people, and I never thought I would get a chance to talk to them, then play against them," Hernandez said.
Now that the Canada Cup tournament is over, the Puerto Rico team members will be going to Florida for training camp before heading to the Pan American Games July 23-29 in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Next month, the team will be trying to beat out Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Cuba for a spot in the Olympic Games at the Americas Olympic Qualifier Aug. 18-26 in Valencia, Venezuela.
"I guess our main objective this summer is to win a medal at the Pan Ams," Hernandez said.
Puerto Rico will face the USA again in the first game of that tournament. "Obviously they're a great team and we don't expect to beat them - no one in the world expects to beat them - but we're hoping we can give them a better game (than in the Canada Cup)," Hernandez said.
With the team's extensive training and tournament schedule this summer, Hernandez has not had a chance to visit her parents or friends at home. In her blog at the www.umassathletics.com website, she wrote: "Puerto Rico is going really well so far, but I sure do miss all of my family members, teammates, and friends back home. So far eve-ryone has been very understanding as to why I haven't been home and I am so happy that everyone has made an effort to stay in contact with me. Being so far away, it's easy to become homesick, but when you talk to the people you love and care about everyday, they make it so much better. So many people have asked me, 'So, are you homesick yet?' I really miss being home but I have been so busy with softball and I know why I am here. This is such a great opportunity for me and I want to make the best of it."
Talking about the long time away, she added, "Coming into it, I knew if I made the team ... it was going to be a big commitment. I'm ready for it though."