Felix Hernandez Leads Seattle's Top-Five Most Popular Athletes In 2011

SEATTLE - Starting pitcher Felix Hernandez #34 of the Seattle Mariners waves to the crowd as he is introduced to receive his American League Cy Young Award trophy prior to the Mariners' home opener against the Cleveland Indians at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

It's been exactly one year since the SB Nation Seattle released its top five most popular athletes in Seattle. Who makes this year's list?

A year ago SB Nation Seattle took a shot at pinpointing the top five most popular athletes in Seattle. Here are my top five most popular athletes in Seattle right now at this moment.

No. 1: Felix Hernandez
There is no question King Felix is the most popular athlete in the city of Seattle right now. The reigning AL Cy Young award winner is starting to dethrone Ichiro as the face of the Mariners. Felix currently ranks second in the AL with 108 strikeouts and has pitched 113.1 innings, good for fourth most in the AL.

The Mariners fan base is currently in love with Felix's commercial alter-ego, Larry Bernandez. And so are the Mariners players themselves. Mariners backup infielder Jack Wilson bought Nike Larry Bernandez shirts for the entire team earlier this month. If a t-shirt isn't enough, the first 20,000 fans to show up at Safeco Field on August 27th will become proud owners of a Larry Bernandez bobble head.

To say Larry Bernandez Felix Hernandez craze is sweeping Seattle would be an understatement. "The King's Court" has been a success so far, and could become a tradition at Safeco Field as long as Felix stays in Seattle. Hernandez is now in his seventh season with the Mariners, but is only 25 years old. Seattle currently has him under contract until 2014, and if the Mariners don't trade him, he will have been a Mariner for ten seasons. Lookout Landing says it the best, "Felix is ours, and you can't have him."


No. 2: Ichiro
Despite signs of decline this season and accusations by some that he's not hustling, most Mariners fans are still behind the future hall-of-famer. Though the resume is impressive: (ten straight All-Star game appearances, ten straight gold gloves and ten straight 200-hit seasons), it doesn't tell us much about his popularity.

What does? Go to Safeco Field on any given game day and look at the jerseys people are sporting. Ichiro is still popular. And I'd be surprised if he doesn't make the All-Star team as a manager selection. Sure, he doesn't necessarily deserve it, but the American League team could get lost without his annual profanity-laced pre-game speech. Now all we need to do is get this guy in the home run derby.

No. 3: Matt Hasselbeck
While Matt Hasselbeck is clearly declining and his days as a Seattle Seahawk are closely coming to an end, this does not take away from the fact that he is the most popular Seattle Seahawk and one of the most popular professional athletes in Seattle right now.

Marshawn Lynch might have a case for himself after causing an earthquake, but Hasselbeck has been in this city for ten years. Coincidentally, he's been here as long as Ichiro. Fans are still wearing No. 8's jersey, and the 35-year-old veteran continues to cater to the local sports media.

During the lockout, Hasselbeck has been instrumental in coordinating workouts at UW with his teammates and other NFL players. While his status with the Seahawks is currently up in the air and some people think the team should go in another direction at quarterback, you can't argue that Hasselbeck is not popular among Seattle sports fans right now.

No. 4 Sue Bird

When you are the leader of a defending championship team, you have more than punched your ticket onto this list. Sue Bird had done nothing but perform at a high level and win in her tenth season in the WNBA as the Seattle Storm's point guard.

While she is a fiery competitor, she is also a likeable person. Her trademark smile and humbling manner is a refreshing constant that this city needs. Sure we don't have the Sonics, and sure some of our teams have been losing a lot lately, but Sue Bird and the Seattle Storm are here winning basketball games. I couldn't ask for more.

No. 5 Kasey Keller
This is Keller's second straight appearance on this list and also his last. The keeper will be hanging up his cleats after this year's MLS season. Seattle has been lucky to play host to Keller during the twilight of his career, and we can only hope that the soccer legend decides to stick around in the Pacific Northwest during retirement.

Keller recently stated that he's discussed possibly coaching or doing TV work and team administration with the team's GM, Adrian Hanauer. Fans will miss his play on the field, but he is one of the reasons this new professional sports franchise in Seattle has been so successful in its infant stage.

Others in consideration:
Lauren Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, Mike Williams, Lofa Tatupu, Marcus Trufant, Chris Polk

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