TCA catcher Hernandez thriving – with a little help from MLB cousin

Trenton Catholic Academy’s Jedier Hernandez says his cousin, former MLB catcher Bengie Molina, is a source of constant motivation and someone he often turns to for advice. Rich Fisher photo

FROM THE MONITOR

By Rich Fisher | Contributing Editor

There is something not quite color coordinated when Trenton Catholic Academy catcher Jedier Hernandez takes his position behind home plate. The Iron Mikes colors are blue and white, but bright red shin guards and chest protector stare out at the pitcher’s mound.

It might have something to do with the fact the St. Louis Cardinals wear red and Bengie Molina is a Cardinals broadcaster. Molina is the oldest brother of the Major League Baseball trio that also includes José and Yadier, who all catch and who are first cousins with Hernandez.

“You can tell by his gear – all red,” Iron Mikes coach Keith Naylor says with a laugh. “Every year, that’s his Christmas gift [from Bengie]. Full gear, cleats, everything.”

Hernandez gets more than that from Bengie, who he is closest with among the famed brothers. A 13-year veteran who retired in 2010, the man nicknamed “Big Money” had a career average of .274 with 144 home runs and 711 RBI. He was a two-time Gold Glove winner and won the 2002 World Series with the Angels.

As the first Molina to retire, Bengie took an immediate interest in his baseball-playing cousin in Trenton.

“They talk often, he gets to have conversations with him,” Naylor said. “He watches all his tapes, he looks up to him.”

With good reason. Bengie not only played the position but served as the Angels catching coach before going into broadcasting.

“It’s amazing what he does for me,” Hernandez said, explaining how Bengie keeps him motivated. “He helps me out; he tells me how to be a leader.”

And if Hernandez is anything on this year’s Iron Mikes team, it’s a leader.

Asked to assess the sophomore, Naylor didn’t blink.

“If I could say one word to sum it up … special,” Naylor said. “He’s a leader on and off the field. Very athletic. I look at him as one of the best catchers in New Jersey. He’s a great ballplayer. He runs our offense, keeps our pitchers in check.”

Hernandez started organized ball with the Hamilton Little Lads and from ages 8-12. He played with Molina Baseball, a travel program started by Bengie in Hamilton Township. From there he went to the New Jersey Tigers travel team.

When he arrived at TCA, his parents decided that religion should become more central in the family’s life. They attend The Bridge Church in Princeton Junction.

“My parents actually started it [going to church] with me now that I’ve come to Catholic school,” Hernandez said. “God is special. I talk to him every morning, every night before I go to sleep.”

At TCA, he has been hitting .364 with 21 RBI as a freshman, and hitting .407 with 23 RBI entering TCA’s Non-Public South B quarterfinal with Immaculata May 28.

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