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The only Gorkys in Venezuela

A surface level joke for most of us carries a much deeper meaning for a man and his country.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Colorado Rockies Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

We just debuted “McDeep Dive”, our new series that will spotlight one Giants player every day for a week. We’ll move backwards and forwards through time, look at on the field stuff, off the field stuff, and see if we can learn something new about them. Here’s part 4 of our look at Gorkys Hernández.

The reason he takes so much guff from fans and onlookers alike is because of his name. Gorkys certainly sounds like the name of some fringey backup player who’s hanging around almost in a mascot capacity. So, where did it come from? What does it mean?

Hank Schulman wrote a really nice long piece on Gorkys Hernández last month for the Chronicle, and we get the very neat and tidy origin story:

Oh to be a fly on the wall in Venezuela, as the new parents were cradling their son, and Mom shot Dad a death stare when he declared he wanted to name the boy after the Marxist Russian writer Maxim Gorky.

So, Hector it was.

But when Hector had a son of his own, he picked the name Gorkys, not because he was a Communist, not because he wanted to please his father. He thought it exuded strength.

Go read the rest of the article for Bruce Bochy and the rest of the organization’s thoughts on the 30-year old outfielder as well as Gorkys’ own thoughts on his breakout season. Stay right here if you want more info on this Maxim Gorky character.

Obviously, Gorkys’ Venezuelan grandfather had the Big Mood of a socialist revolutionary. Maxim Gorky was officially a government artist, the pioneer of the socialist realism literary method. I’m unfamiliar with his work, but socialist realism literature must be replete with tales of the proletariat seizing the means of production.

You can see why someone would be motivated by Gorky’s writing. Say what you want about the tenets of national socialism, but it produces great writing. These are still irrefutable truths of our time:

When everything is easy one quickly gets stupid.

In the maxim of the past, you can’t go anywhere.

Everybody lives for something better to come. That’s why we want to be considerate of every man — who knows what’s in him, why he was born and what he can do?

Many contemporary authors drink more than they write.

Gorkys’ grandfather must’ve imparted enough of Maxim’s wisdom on Gorkys’ father, because the name certainly stuck:

Gorkys is not a common name in Venezuela. As Hernandez tells it, he’s the only “Gorkys” from his home nation.

“My first name is from Russia,” Hernandez explained. “My dad liked the name when I was born and he said, ‘I want to call my son Gorkys if I have a son one day.’ So, I was born and that’s how I got my name.”

But the weight of the name, from the political activism of the historical figure to the family history, weighs far less on Gorkys’ soul than does the present state of affairs in Venezuela, where crime and poverty has soared. Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat asked him about this specifically back in April of this year:

As Hernandez said: “When I was young, we had everything.”

It should be noted that Hernandez, in relative terms, grew up with very little. The son of a single mother, he worked at a car wash as a teenager to help support the family. “We could find food, we could find medicine, everything,” he continued. “We could go to the hospital. Now you can’t find food, you can’t find the medicine. People die because if you go to the hospital, you have nothing to take care of you.”

Like his countryman, Gregor Blanco, they’re both struggling with the condition of their homes and the strife faced by the families they’ve left behind.

“I tried to make a visa to my mother to come here,” Hernandez said. “But you’re not gonna get the visa. They gonna decline the visa. That stuff is hard for me, because like three years I haven’t seen my mom. Right now I can’t go to Venezuela because I’m doing my paperwork here, so I can’t leave the country.”

But they also call him Cazador. As he said for the Players’ Weekend:

“Cazador” means “Hunter” in Spanish. “That’s been my nickname for a long time,” Hernandez said. “Playing winter ball in Venezuela, when I started to play every day, I made a couple of plays and stole a home run and everybody called me, ‘Cazador! Cazador!’

He’s the only Gorkys from Venezuela and is still very much of Venezuela, but he’s here now, watching from afar as terrible things happen to it. Every one of us carries a pressure to succeed in some area of our life, but far fewer of us are given a name with an implied purpose and a secret hope of changing the world.

Hector Hernández liked the name “Gorkys” because he thought it sounded strong. We know he has it because we watch him every day. But strength is more than exit velocity and Gorkys is more than #Gorked.