“I want to thank God for blessing me, and my parents for giving me a chance in this beautiful country after risking so much to bring me from Cuba and giving me an opportunity to dream big. It’s such an honor to be recognized among the elite athletes from Sacramento.
Major League Baseball
High School: Valley
College: Cosumnes River College, Sacramento City College, Arizona State University
* MLB Career: 12 Years (Seattle, New York Mets, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Detroit)
* MLB All-Star Selection (1998)
* 2 Time Gold Glove Award Winner (2001, 2002)
* USA Olympic Team Member (1989)
* Arizona State Hall of Fame (2011)
* Milwaukee Brewers Hall of Fame (2014)
Fernando Viña was born and raised in South Sacramento after his parents, Andreas and Olga defected from their homeland of Cuba. After two unsuccessful attempts to leave the country, the third one turned out to be a charm. While Olga was pregnant with Fernando, the Vina’s took a boat to Key West, Florida and headed west and relocated permanently in Sacramento.
Baseball was in the family blood as his father played competitively in Cuba. Fernando took to the game naturally and idolized former Oakland A’s shortstop Bert Campaneris, a fellow Cuban. Fernando attended Valley High School where he played three years of varsity baseball. He was All-League and a All-City selection.
Fernando had scholarship offers throughout the country but he decided to stay close to home and play his first year of college ball at nearby Cosumnes River College. He led the state in hitting with a batting average of .530. He then transferred to neighboring powerhouse, Sacramento City College. After two successful years at the JC level, Fernando received a scholarship to Arizona State University.
He was part of a tradition rich program at ASU and fit right in immediately. His junior year he led the Pac 10 with a batting average of .387. His senior year he ranked third in the nation with 108 hits and captured the Pac-10 batting title in 1990. That season he only struck out 7 times in 279 at-bats.
In 1990, Fernando was drafted by the New York Mets. He spent two seasons in the minors before the Mets left him unprotected in the Rule 5 draft. He was selected by the Seattle Mariners and made the big league roster. After a year, he was on his way back to New York. He played shortstop for the Mets during the strike shortened season of 1994. After play resumed the following year, he found a more stable home as he was traded to Milwaukee.
Joining fellow Sacramento Sports Hall of Famer, Greg Vaughn, the two Sacramento friends were part of a strong Brewers line-up for two seasons together. Fernando settled in at second base and had his best year in 1998 when he hit .311 with 198 hits and 101 runs scored. He stole a career high 22 bases and led the National League in triples while be named to the All-Star team.
In 2000, Fernando got the opportunity to play for a perennial playoff contender as he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. He had an outstanding season winning a gold glove and leading the Cardinals to the National League Central Division title. In his first two seasons in St. Louis, he hit over .300 each year. In his four seasons there, he won two gold gloves and had the highest fielding percentage of any second baseman. The Cardinals went to the playoffs in three of those years including the National League Championship Series in 2000 and 2002.
Fernando played 12 years in the majors. During his career, he was one of the best second basemen with exceptional quick hands and great footwork. He was a tremendous hitter who could hit the ball to all fields and had a .lifetime batting average of .282 in 1,148 games played. He was a National League All-Star, a 2-time Gold Glove winner while stealing 116 bases. In a unique distinction, he hit the first inside-the-park home run ever in both AT&T Park in San Francisco and Miller Park in Milwaukee.
After retiring, Fernando was a studio analyst for ESPN on Baseball Tonight for three years and also worked for Fox Sports St. Louis and Comcast Bay Area covering the Oakland A’s. He was inducted into the Arizona State Hall of Fame in 2011 and the Milwaukee Brewers Wall of Honor in 2014.
Fernando had excelled at every level he played the game. He is known as one of the best infielders and hitters from our area, and is another home grown talent in the long list of Sacramento area baseball players who had tremendous Major League careers.