No one knows what to call Felix Hernandez’s out pitch. Calling it a changeup—a pitch that travels straight at 90 mph, then dives down toward a batter’s feet—isn’t quite right. If you saw a mountain lion tracking your hiking buddy, you wouldn’t yell, “There’s a cat chasing you!”
Hernandez’s original creation deserves an original name. He calls it a cambio, but that just means “change” in Spanish. We can do better. So I asked a baseball fan and expert on Latin American culture, my buddy Josh Michtom, to help out. His recommendation: Let’s call Hernandez’s pitch the Joropo.
The Joropo (“ho-ROH-po”) is the national dance of Hernandez’s home country, Venezuela. The dance starts fast, as a couple spins and steps in tandem to waltz time. But then there’s an abrupt twist: The couple suddenly begins stepping rapidly in time with a different beat. It’s like a tap-dance battle breaking out in the middle of a polka.
These mid-song tempo changes are what make the dance unique and delightful to watch, just as the unexpected downward veer of Hernandez’s out pitch makes it special and dreadful to hit. Says Michtom modestly, “Given the nature of the pitch and the origin of the guy throwing it, this nickname is pretty much perfect.”
Plus, it’s fun to say!—the breathy “ho” followed by the emphasized, rollable “ro” and the abrupt “po.” What would be more exciting to hear: the stale standby “struck him out on a change,” or “struck him out with the hhho-RRRRRO-po!”? Dave Niehaus (RIP) would be on this like Kyle Seager on a waist-high fastball. Seems like a fun new chant for the King’s Court, too.
Naming Hernandez’s change carries on a team tradition—few pitchers pick unique names for what they throw, but former M’s great Randy Johnson had a name for his devastating slider: Mr. Snappy. Seems fair that the only Mariner pitcher as good as Johnson should also have a name for his out pitch.
So share this article! Tweet your friends! I’m not looking for any glory here. I’m just a loyal subject of King Felix, hoping to spread the prestige of his dominion. I hope you’ll join me on this quest.