Feb 16, 2011, 10:34 PM EDT
Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Livan Hernandez plays catch on his first day at Nats camp this spring.
VIERA, Fla. — Livan Hernandez has the kind of presence that allows him to walk into any big-league clubhouse and immediately feel right at home, but there may be no clubhouse in the sport that feels more like home to the veteran right-hander than the home digs at Space Coast Stadium.
Hernandez has been coming here for so long, he vividly remembers the facility’s early days in the mid-1990s when nothing but cow pastures surrounded the ballpark. The smell wafting over the right-field fence is permanently embedded in his mind.
This is, amazingly, Hernandez’s 10th spring training in Viera. The first four came as a member of the Marlins, the original tenants of the facility on the state’s east coast (1996-99). Then four more during his first stint with the Expos/Nationals (2003-06). And now he’s back for the second camp of his second stint with the Nats, still occupying one of the two extra-large lockers reserved for the team’s senior starting pitchers.
Come March 31, Hernandez will find himself in familiar territory as well: Standing on the mound delivering the first pitch of the season for the ninth time in his career, an assignment he relishes.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I don’t know how many times I’ve been doing it, maybe eight or nine? It’s nice to pitch on the first day of the season, and I enjoy it. I’ll try to win.”
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