This is a story about a bet.
The tale begins just hours before the start of Game 5 of the National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs.
It was a cool, crisp 62 degrees on that night and as the boys in blue took batting practice at Wrigley Field, super-utility player Enrique Hernandez chatted with the chairman of the Dodgers, Mark Walter.
Walter knew that the Dodgers were on the precipice of reaching their first World Series since 1988, and his first as owner of the Dodgers. He also knew that Hernandez was in the starting lineup that night against Cubs left-hander Jose Quintana.
Hernandez knew that Walter was one of the richest men in the world, with a net worth of $3 billion dollars, and the CEO of Guggenheim Partners, a global financial services firm with nearly $300 billion in assets.
Just over two weeks removed from the dissipation of Hurricane Maria, regarded as the worst natural disaster on record in his home of Puerto Rico, Hernandez had actively been trying to raise money for the relief effort on donation site YouCaring.com.
At the time, Hernandez was short of his goal of $100,000, so he struck up a conversation with Walter.
The origin of "the bet" and its terms have been shrouded in secrecy as both Hernandez and Walter say "they don't remember the conversation very well."
Reportedly, Hernandez asked for Walter's help in the fundraising efforts and the Chairman told Hernandez that he would donate $1 million if Hernandez reached base twice in the potential World Series-clinching game.
Hernandez accepted the bet and what would follow hours later on that Oct. 19 night will go down in baseball lore forever.
In his first at-bat, Hernandez hit a first-pitch fastball off Quintana to straightaway center that gave the Dodgers an early 2-0 lead. It was the first postseason home run in Hernandez's career.
"Quintana likes to get ahead with a fastball on the first pitch," Hernandez would tell TBS after the game. "So I went out there aggressive and I got a good pitch to hit and was able to hit it out."
An inning later, in his second at-bat, Hernandez would do the unthinkable: a grand slam home run off right-hander Hector Rondon. The unthinkable move delivered the knockout punch to the reigning World Series champion Cubs, giving the Dodgers an insurmountable 7-0 lead with Clayton Kershaw on the mound.
"Facing Rondon, it's no secret that I struggle against righties this year," said Hernandez of the grand slam. "It's the postseason. You have to grind it out, lock it in and do your job any way possible. Obviously, people back home are having a really hard time right now and for me to be able to come here and do something like this is pretty special."
Entering the game, Hernandez was batting .159 with just one home run against right-handed pitching on the year. Ironically, it was against his so-called "kryptonite" that Hernandez was able to send the Dodgers to the World Series and win the bet in the process.
Just for good measure, Hernandez homered again in his final at-bat. A two-run shot in the top of the ninth that give the Puerto Rican an MLB record three home runs and seven RBI in a Championship Series game.
Hernandez didn't just get on-base twice, however. He single-handedly dethroned the champion Cubs in their own building with a record-breaking performance that ended a 29-year Dodger drought. Needless to say, it was time for Walter to pay up.
Walter proved he was a man of his word on Tuesday, March 27, 2018, when he not only honored the original bet but doubled the amount, donating a whopping $2 million to Habitat for Humanity of Puerto Rico to assist in the rebuilding efforts.
"I don't recall that conversation very well," Hernandez told reporters of his bet with Walter on Tuesday before the team's final exhibition game against the Angels. "He said, 'Let's win this game and if we win, I'm going to make a pretty generous donation to Puerto Rico,' and he kept his word. For Mark [Walter] to keep his word and donate that much of his money is awesome. It's a great feeling."
Hernandez said that Walter promised to make the donation right after Game 5, but that he and his fiancée, Mariana Vicente — the 2010 winner of Miss Universe Puerto Rico — decided they would focus on the World Series and research charities in the offseason.
Vicente and Hernandez researched extensively a number of different charities in Puerto Rico before ultimately deciding on Habitat for Humanity.
"We decided to go with Habitat for Humanity because not only are they building and re-building homes, but they are trying to work with people and help improve their lifestyle," Hernandez said. "They're also trying to find jobs for the people who lost their homes."
The organization was selected after consultation with Puerto Rican resident Toa Baja, Hernandez and Vicente. The couple also raised over $225,000, exceeding their goal on YouCaring.com and selling T-shirts through 500 LEVEL.
“We are honored to have been selected by such a prestigious organization as the Dodgers, and by the much-loved and admired Puerto Ricans Kiké Hernández and Mariana Vicente, to carry-out the important task of providing safe and decent housing for Puerto Rican families affected by Hurricane Maria,” said Amanda Silva, executive director for Habitat for Humanity of Puerto Rico. “Together, we will work towards the reconstruction of our island with the same passion that the Dodgers display on the baseball field.”
Hernandez was all smiles and nearly at a loss for words on Tuesday as the announcement of the donation was made.
"It means the world to me," he said. "This is something I'm extremely proud of. Seven months later, and our little island is still in desperate need of help. This money will be able to put a lot of families back in homes. This is something we've been working on since the World Series ended."
“It’s been more than six months since Hurricane Maria’s devastating effects on Puerto Rico and with so much work still to be done, the Dodgers want to do our part to help with the island’s rebuilding and recovery efforts,” said Dodger Owner and Chairman Mark Walter. “Kiké and Mariana have been such strong advocates for Puerto Rico, and we want to join their families and loved ones in helping repair the community and work towards a return to normalcy.”
"I'm really thankful to Mark and the Dodgers and everyone who made this possible," added Hernandez.
Fans can join in the efforts of Mark, Kiké, Mariana and the Dodgers by donating at english.habitatpr.org/dodgers.
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