For the love of the game: For Southington head coach Hernandez, softball offers more than wins or losses

Published on Sunday, 3 June 2018 22:16
Written by SHELBY IAVA

@shelbyiavaNB

SOUTHINGTON - Some say, those who can’t do, teach. Southington softball head coach Davina Hernandez is far from that mold.

A star player in her own right, Hernandez has quickly become one of the best coaches in the state of Connecticut, leading a program known for its history of excellence, while helping it reach new heights.

Hernandez first came to Southington High School in 2014. In that year she led the Blue Knights to an undefeated 24-0 season and since then she has only suffered six losses in the last four years, won two Class LL titles and reached a third last season. There also happened to be a streak of 77 consecutive wins along the way.

Originally from Bristol, Hernandez played softball for Bristol Central High School where she was a four-time all-conference selection and was twice named All-State. It was with the Rams she learned firsthand what Southington softball was like. In 2004, Hernandez’s junior year, the Rams lost the Class LL championship game to the Blue Knights.

“I grew up with Southington being one of my rivalries,” Hernandez said. “When I was on the inside of the diamond, we would always battle against them. There has always been this long-standing rivalry.”

After high school she went on to continue her career in softball at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, a Division I, Atlantic-10 Conference school. A role player in her early seasons, Hernandez emerged as a key piece for a program that saw plenty of success.

“We were a very good team when I was there,” Hernandez said. “For Division I, we were ranked top 25 all four years. I played in the NCAA Sweet 16 one year and we went to four NCAA regional championships, and won one of them.”

With her team in the limelight, Hernandez soon took up her next challenge and was recruited to play for the Puerto Rican Olympic team, where she played from 2007-10.

But Hernandez’s playing days came to an unexpected end. When she was in Venezuela for the Pan American Qualify Games, she acquired a parasite which triggered Lupus, an inflammatory disease caused when the immune system attacks its own tissues.

“It ended up triggering a lot of other health problems,” Hernandez said. “I had to stop playing softball.”

It wasn’t until a year later when Hernandez realized how much she had missed the sport.

“I missed it so much that I wanted to come back and coach,” Hernandez said.

One day, her father, Dave, ran into former Southington High School softball head coach John Bores.

“They had just talked about when I was done playing, if I would be interested in coming to help out as a volunteer,” Davina said. “I ended up doing that for a year and then he left and I took over. I love coaching just as much as I loved playing. It’s really fun to just be back in the sport and just doing what I love.”

The younger Hernandez has had Lupus for the last 13 years and has been dealing with the effects every day.

“It’s hard, like you can see how swollen I am today,” Hernandez said after her team beat No. 9 South Windsor Friday afternoon. “I can’t get my engagement ring off today. I can’t straighten my hands and I’ve had a numb hand for six days. A lot of very strange things happen because the body is just attacking itself.

“There’s some days I can’t hit balls to the girls. There’s some days I come to practice on crutches. There’s some days I have to cancel or make practice later. But when I’m here, it tends to be the place I don't think about everything. This is kind of the place where I clear my mind. The only thing I’m thinking about is that game, that pitch, that hit. It’s a nice escape for me.”

Health problems aren’t uncommon in the Hernandez family. Her father battled cancer for 17 years and had a liver transplant November of 2015.

“She has a heart of gold and I love her,” Dave said. “I had cancer for years and I’m here by miracle. She calls me up asking how I’m feeling and I’m worried about her. My wife cries every night, but she’s a great kid and we’re really lucky. She worked hard and no one gave her [anything]. She just loves what she does.”

Although Davina may struggle sometimes, she doesn’t let the disease get in the way of her love for softball. Her players notice and it always helps having a coach who’s been there, at the highest level.

“Davina is amazing,” senior first baseman Frankie Ferrante said. “She brings out the fire. She just knows what to say, when to say it and her being young really helps us. We can really relate to her and she’s been through the whole system.”

Senior left fielder Sarah Myrick added, “Davina is very inspirational in terms of her own experiences. She really inspires us to keep pushing every game and she is a fantastic coach. If you have one little problem, she knows how to fix it in 30 seconds, it’s fantastic.”

As much as Hernandez inspires her team, her team inspires her just as much, if not more. A good coach always needs good players.

“I brag about them so much,” Hernandez said. “Because they’re good, and when people are that good and on top, it’s easy to not like them. But I feel and I find that it’s very hard for people to not like them. They’re classy, they’re good sports, they’re really good kids, they’re raised well, they have awesome parents. I feel very fortunate that I learn just as much from them, as they do from me and it’s very humbling.”

And even as Southington is making another run at another state title, it’s hard not to notice the joy Hernandez has for the game - playing or coaching. Her love for softball doesn’t compare to anyone else.

“She just loves this game,” Dave said. “She said, ‘one day dad, I’m going to coach this game as long as I can. I want to have a dynasty over here.’”

Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or siava@newbritainherald.com



Posted in The Bristol Press, Southington on Sunday, 3 June 2018 22:16. Updated: Sunday, 3 June 2018 23:01.