19 years ago, the Marlins signed Livan Hernandez
On January 13, 1996, the Marlins signed 20-year-old Livan Hernandez. Although that sentence sounds simple enough, it doesn't tell of the harrowing journey that Hernandez endured during his defection from Cuba to the United States. It involved secretly leaving the Cuban National Team in Mexico, traveling to the Dominican Republic and flying into Miami to work out the details of that contract. Here's a 30 for 30 clip about the night he fled:
After narrowly overcoming a career-threatening McDonalds addiction, Hernandez became a crucial component of the Marlins' 1997 postseason run. He was called up in June and got off to a roaring 9-0 start -- finishing the year at 9-3 with a 3.18 ERA. In the NLCS, he went 2-0 with a 0.84 ERA. He was the series MVP. You'll probably remember why:
Hernandez also won Game 1 and Game 5 of the World Series, taking home MVP honors yet again.
The two-time All-Star spent 15 more seasons in the bigs and could probably still pitch today if a team came calling. Happy signing day, Livan.