The Real Reason “King” Felix Chose to Stay In Seattle

It was the strawberry waffles at Chace’s Pancake Corral in Bellevue, that was the clincher, the deal-maker, the real reason Felix Hernandez stuck with the Mariners and became the highest-paid hurler in the major leagues.

Yes siree, this is the kind of the stuff that doesn’t show up in the box score.

Seems our favorite M, who dazzles us with the K, makes it a point to visit the Pancake Corral a couple of times a week, in fact, whenever the team’s in town.

“Yes, he comes in with wife and cute little boy and he always has the strawberry waffle with bacon and eggs and orange juice,” says owner Jane Zakskorn, whose dad, William Chace, now deceased, opened the cozy little breakfast and lunch joint 55 years ago on Bellevue Way.

“When Felix turned 27 last month, he came in and the whole wait staff sang Happy Birthday.”

The place, with just 15 tables and a wait list to grab one, has long been a gathering place for Seattle’s sports elite, most of who seem to live on the Eastside. Mariner’s second baseman Harold Reynolds was a regular in the day, chatting it up with Bill Chace, the daughter recalls. “Jay Buhner, he’s been coming forever, and Edgar (Martinez) too. I remember him switching from blueberry pancakes to buckwheat to lose some weight.

“And oh yeah, Lou Pinella was always here back then. He called me Shirley for some reason. Used to be the whole offensive line of the Seahawks came in. But now Russell Wilson does, comes in a lot with his cute little wife,” says Zakskorn, who can remember working as a hostess at Chace’s when she was ten and a half.

What prompted us to reach out to the Pancake Corral was today’s story in The New York Times sports section, which offered various reasons why Hernandez decided to forgo moving on to a bigger market and with a better chance of winning a pennant.

As Greg Bishop writes:

“Why stay? Why Seattle? Why, when Roy Halladay went to Philadelphia and C. C. Sabathia joined the Yankees, when stars in all sports jump to more established contenders, did Hernandez not follow the same pattern?

The answer, in part, was pancakes.

For Hernandez, the choice came down to comfort. Comfort in his neighborhood, east of Seattle in the Bellevue suburbs, where his two children play in the local parks. Comfort in the direction being taken by the Mariners’ organization, its minor league teams laden with young talent. And comfort food at his favorite local eatery, Chace’s Pancake Corral, an unassuming joint that suits its most superstar of clients.

‘After three years here, I’m like, this is it, man, this is my place,” Hernandez said. ‘When you work somewhere and you feel comfortable, you don’t want to leave. You want to stay there forever.’”

And eat strawberry waffles to your heart’s content.

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