SAN DIEGO -- When Carlos Hernandez first came to the San Diego Padres in 1997 from the Los Angeles Dodgers, the expectations weren't high. He had been a career backup with the Dodgers and was brought on board to fill the same role with the Padres. But Hernandez had different plans.
He earned a starting spot and became a key player both on and off the field for a team that peaked in 1998 by making it to the World Series.
"We thought he'd be a backup but he became a leader on our ball club," said Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, who played with Hernandez from 1997-1998. "He was a clutch guy and became a really good hitter. And he was really smart."
Hernandez's playing days ended due to back problems in 2000, but he hasn't veered too far away from the game. He is currently an analyst for FOX Sports in Espanol and for DirecTV. His appearances with DirecTV are broadcast in Latin America, and he can be seen on FOX Sports every Saturday for the Game of the Week in the States.
He also gives private catching clinics and was a manager in Venezuela for Leones De Caracas, a winter league team he played on for 16 years, for two and a half years.
But his focus right now is the broadcasting, and he's enjoying himself.
"It's a way to stay in the game and watch the games," Hernandez said. "It's pretty good. It's something new for me."
Hernandez still misses the game and all that comes with it.
"Just being on the field, doing what I like to do," Hernandez said. "Winning games, the excitement, hearing the people cheer for you. You don't think it's going to be over, but one day it is going to be over. Some day you will never come back and play, that is the hard part."
But not playing has allowed Hernandez to focus on elements of his life that he didn't have as much time for during his playing days.
Hernandez is the father of two children, Nathalia, 12, and Carlos Jr., 19. His time is now spent doing a lot of things with his daughter that he never had the chance to do.
"It leaves time for us to be together," Hernandez said. "Be a parent, be daddy, be the guy that when something happens in the house, I can fix it. I can take my daughter to school. I couldn't do it before because I spent too much time away. All the stuff I missed, I don't want to miss it again. Birthdays, all the stuff that regular parents are always there for and I never had the chance to do it. I feel happy and proud that I can be there."
When Carlos looks back at his playing career, his time with the Padres stands out.
"That was the best time I ever had in baseball, to be honest," Hernandez said. "It was because the guys believed I could play, believed I could be a catcher and help them go to the World Series. In Los Angeles, I never had that opportunity. With the Padres, they gave me an opportunity and I did it. Took me a lot of patience to do what I wanted to do."
Ronald P. Clark is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.