Player diary: Kiké Hernández details Dodgers' first road trip amid coronavirus crisis

·6 min read
Los Angeles Dodgers' Enrique Hernandez watches his fly ball
Dodgers' Kiké Hernández watches his fly ball during the 10th inning of a game against the Astros on July 29 in Houston. (David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

As told to Times staff writer Jorge Castillo.

We knew this first road trip was going to be different. We had to make adjustments from the beginning and now we know how the trips will be for the rest of the season.

The flights are basically the same as before. The only difference is we wear masks for the entire flight. They give us hand sanitizer, gloves and masks. The gloves aren’t mandatory, but I’ve put them on. The only thing I don’t like is if the flight is long it looks like I’m 100 years old when I take my gloves off because my hands get sweaty and wrinkled. But I don’t think taking that extra precaution hurts anyone. I just put them on.

A normal day on the road depends on when you wake up. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., we had food available in a conference room of the hotel. You went to the room and picked up your food, whether you want breakfast or lunch. There were hamburgers, tacos, things like that. You could also just order something on Postmates.

I like to have my coffee every morning, but we couldn’t leave the hotel — at least it was highly discouraged. So I looked for a place for breakfast and there was a Starbucks across the street. Since we couldn’t leave, I ordered the Starbucks delivered to the front desk to bring it up to me.

I spent the days flipping through channels and studying videos of opposing pitchers. Since we can’t use the video room at stadiums this year, everyone is watching more film on their own. I have a hard drive and a Surface I bought to watch videos of pitchers. After each series, I give [Jonathan] Rhymes, the video coordinator, the hard drive and he adds my at-bats from that day and any pitchers I want. I spent my days like that — and playing a lot of Candy Crush on my phone.

The COVID testing days were the same. You went to the conference room where we had the food between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. You spit for the test, picked up the food, and went to your room. Then there are about five different hours of buses to the ballpark. You picked when you wanted to leave the hotel.

In a normal year, you’d get to the stadium and there would be food prepared for whenever you wanted to eat. This year it’s different.

In Houston, food was available after batting practice. You’d arrive at the ballpark sometime after 1 and there were two or three snacks available until after 5. You had to plan when and how much you were going to eat.

I tried both options — eating and not eating after batting practice. There were days when I was already starving in the second inning. Then there were days when, in the fourth or fifth inning, I had heartburn from the food I ate. After the game, you picked food up from the hotel conference room and ate it in your room.

I think the Astros series was a bigger deal for the outside world than for us. It, obviously, would’ve been more intense with fans in a normal season. It definitely was a little strange.

There was some really weird déjà vu going on the first day I got to the ballpark, going through the tunnel and walking into the locker room. Some weird [stuff] started coming back to my head, things I had forgotten. But I thought it was going to be worse.

Like I told some teammates, it’s so weird because I have those bad feelings about that stadium because of the World Series, but it’s also where I made my big league debut. It’s where I got my first hit and hit my first home run. It’s bittersweet.

I got to live some childhood dreams in that stadium that have nothing to do with the World Series. Those are special moments in my life. I can’t let another team ruin that for me even though there are bad memories from that place.

I don’t know the protocol too well in Arizona because I stayed at my house. But I had to go to the hotel where the guys were staying one of the mornings for a spit test. Since we played four games in Arizona, I did two spit tests. We did one of the tests the night before the day game Sunday.

In Arizona, we decided to be more vigilant as a team after we saw that the virus spread within the Miami Marlins and the season was being threatened. We thought if we do our part and proceed with extra caution, we can help keep the season going.

At summer camp, we did a good job of distancing, but we weren’t as careful when we started playing other teams. There was a lot of room to improve so we implemented rules. We started using the extra dugout space for whoever isn’t playing and everyone not on the field needs to put a mask on. We stopped throwing the ball around the infield. It’s a lot of little adjustments. Once in a while, you forget and high-five somebody but we’re trying to be more conscious of everything.

It was more of the same in San Diego. One difference at the stadium was we had to leave the dugout and go up the stairs into the stands to eat in a restaurant before the game. It was our food room.

They gave us five clubhouses in San Diego: the normal clubhouse where we always stay, the coaches' locker room for some players, a food room, the manager’s office, and an auxiliary locker room for the coaches in the tunnel outside the main clubhouse.

In Arizona, the regular clubhouse is more spacious, so we have our normal locker room. There were a few portable lockers in the middle and they converted the food room into another locker room. They put two or three coaches in their normal locker room and the others in an auxiliary locker room.

Kiké Hernández takes a throw to second base during a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 2 in Phoenix.
Kiké Hernández takes a throw to second base during a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 2 in Phoenix. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

It was all a little different, but I think the road trip surpassed our expectations. Everything’s going to be a little smoother after the first one. Everybody knows what to expect. It’s just going to become normal, I guess.

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