Dreams became reality when Livan Hernandez became one of the first Cuban baseball players to defect and join the Major Leagues.
Plenty of teams casted off to the Dominican Republic to try to reel in players. In the end, the Florida Marlins were the team with the big prize. For $6.5 million a year and a $2.5 million signing bonus, Hernandez became the future of the Franchise.
Livan's lack of literacy in English caused an inability to communicate with coaches, so they put him in the minors under the wing of current Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez.
Livan got his chance to shine in 1997. He was called up from AAA on June 28th to face America's team, the New York Yankees, in front of a sold out crowd of 42,153 in Miami. Hernandez gave up 3 runs in 5 innings and received a no decision. He went on to win his next 6 starts and 9 out of his first 12 Major League apperances. He entered the month of September undefeated before he suffered his first loss against the San Francisco Giants, 1-0. Livan went on to lose his next 2 games and finish the regular season 9-3.
Livan began the playoffs out of the bullpen in a best out of 5 series against the San Francisco Giants. He had three strikeouts in his only inning of work for the series.
Hernandez started the Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves in the bullpen. He made an appearence in Game 3 where he pitched the 6th and 7th innings and earned his first career playoff victory. Manager Jim Leyland was so content with his young rookie that he gave him the starting nod for game 5. Livan did not make Jim regret his decision.
Hernandez pitched a complete game giving up 3 hits, 1 run and striking out 15 batters to earn his second playoff victory. His preformance earned him the NLCS MVP award as he propelled the Marlins to their first World Series.
Livan got the start for game one and five of the World Series. Both games resulting in a win for Hernandez and the Marlins. The Marlins went on to win their first World Series in great part to the strong pitching of their rookie pitcher. Livan became the first and only Major League rookie to be awarded the World Series MVP. He became notorious in the world of baseball as he slid in front of the mound after game seven and proclaimed in front of national television:
"I Love You Miami"