Amid the constant drumbeat of coronavirus-related news in this strange return-to-sports time, one related side story has emerged in a genuinely endearing way.
As MLB teams scramble to field enough players to hold scrimmages during “Summer Camp,” the accelerated ramp-up to next week’s start of the truncated 60-game season, some unlikely heroes have emerged.
My favorite: Dodgers clubhouse attendant Francisco “Chico” Herrera.
He’s also the favorite of many Dodgers fans. Herrera has been playing the outfield for the shorthanded Dodgers. He’s been with the team since 2008 as a clubhouse attendant but hasn’t played competitive baseball since playing some college ball a decade ago.
On Sunday, Herrera was playing left field. Established Dodgers player Chris Taylor was on first, when a long fly ball was hit Herrera’s way. Taylor, who is fast enough to have swiped 17 bases a couple seasons ago, thought he would try to tag up and make it to second.
Bad idea. Don’t run on Chico.
Taylor was out by at least 10 feet after Herrera’s laser throw from left was on the money, on a line to second base. The best part? There’s video. From multiple angles, including one slo-mo.
“It’s been surreal,” Herrera, 30, told the Los Angeles Times. “The guys are loving it and I’m just going out there and having fun.”
He hasn’t had a turn at bat yet — and won’t, if manager Dave Roberts stays true to his word. That hasn’t stopped teammates from lobbying for it. Justin Turner wore a “Let Chico Hit” shirt at camp recently.
It’s a story akin to emergency goalies being used in actual NHL games. And I’m here for it.