Hernandez grew up in Puerto Rico playing shortstop, but he began living the life of a baseball nomad in 1988 with the Gulf Coast Rangers, a Texas rookie league team. "We didn't have anyone to play third," says Hernandez, so he filled in there. "The next year I was in A ball, and I started playing second, too. Then one morning the manager woke me up and said, 'Let's go down to the park early and take fly balls in the outfield.' " Hernandez took the suggestion in stride. "You always want to play your regular position," he says, "but I was thinking of guys like Jose Oquendo and Luis Aguayo, guys from Puerto Rico who played a lot of positions and stayed in the majors for so many years."
While his versatility is what got him to the bigs, Hernandez admits it would be nice to come to the park with some idea of where he'll be playing. He may now get the chance to settle down, at least for the rest of the season. The Cubs parted with third baseman Kevin Orie at the trading deadline, leaving Hernandez to play the hot corner. Manager Jim Riggleman has no qualms about leaving the position in the hands of such a well-rounded man. "He's right there with Ken Caminiti, Matt Williams and Edgardo Alfonzo as a Gold Glove candidate," says Riggleman. "He's as good as it gets at third."