Lasting Legacy

Tony Fernandez helped cement reputation of San Pedro de Macoris as the cradle of shortstops

September 28, 2012
(NBHOF Library)

By Connor O’Gara

Baseball players are considered memorable if they achieved success in the city in which they played in.

Tony Fernandez, on the other hand, left his mark on three countries.

The San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic native, spent his 17-year Major League career playing America’s game – and helped bring a World Series title to a hockey country. Fernandez’s road to international baseball success started when he was just a kid with a dream.

“A seed was planted in my heart,” Fernandez said in his Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction speech. “I needed good soil to develop and for me that was the Toronto Blue Jays from the day Epy Guerrero signed me April 24, 1979.”

The 16-year-old shortstop spent five years in the Blue Jays’ farm system before he got his first call-up in 1983. Fernandez transformed himself into an everyday player and even an All-Star in his second full season in the big leagues.

His 213 hits in 1986 set a single-season record for hits by a shortstop. But it wasn’t just his offense that made him one of the Blue Jays main cogs. 

“When you talk shortstop, you’re usually talking about defense,” said former Blue Jays manager Jimmy Williams. “But in Tony’s case, you’re talking about a complete ball player.”

Fernandez notched three All-Star Game appearances and four Gold Glove Awards by the time he left Toronto after the 1990 season. Fernandez, paired alongside Hall of Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar, led the Blue Jays to their second straight World Series title after he returned to Toronto in the middle of the 1993 season.

“He’s just so mentally tough,” said former Blue Jays hitting coach Gary Matthews. “He feels he can hit any ball at any time. He hits with no fear.”

Fernandez played seven more seasons in the big leagues and battled through a series of injuries. Yet despite missing the entire 1996 campaign, Fernandez bounced back and hit a blistering .321 in 1998 and .328 in 1999. Fernandez finally retired in 2001 with 2,276 hits, five All-Star Game appearances and a World Series ring.

He became one of several big league shortstops from San Pedro de Macoris – including Mariano Duncan, Manuel Lee and Jose Offerman –  helping establish that city’s reputation as a factory for middle infielders.

“Other players might have more natural ability,” former Blue Jays general manager Gord Ash said. “But very, very, few have his self-discipline and dedication.”

 Check out bios of other Latin Legends here

Connor O’Gara was the 2012 public relations intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development..

For information on how to apply for the Class of 2013 Steele Internship Program, click here