This piece was made in collaboration with Phillies Nation contributor, Corey Sharp.
Phillies Nation’s own Ryan Gerstel and Corey Sharp were on hand to cover another great event hosted by Dynasty Sports and Framing (Oxford Valley Mall in Langhorne, PA). This was a special signing, as the Phillies’ bat flipping, All Star center fielder, Odubel Herrera, was in the building to meet his awaiting fans.
The Rule 5 selection from Venezuela had a strong start to the season, getting the nod as the lone representative for the Phillies in this year’s mid-summer classic. It hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows for Herrera in the second half of the year, however. The 24-year-old is hitting just .249 with an OBP of .316 since the break. As a result of his struggles, Herrera’s season average has dipped from a season-high .339, to a .278 mark. With his inconsistency, Herrera is not a shoe-in to be on the roster in 2017, especially when you consider the Phillies’ competitive outfield landscape next season that includes the likes of Nick Williams, Roman Quinn, Aaron Altherr, Tyler Goeddel and Double-A slugger Dylan Cozens. As CSN Philly.com’s Jim Salisbury wrote last month, the Phillies could be looking to shop Herrera this winter.
The line outside Dynasty Sports wrapped around the concourse by 11:00am, a half hour before the event began. Unfortunately for the fans, they had to wait an extra half hour, as the All Star was fashionably late. The crowd erupted once Herrera, who was donning a hat that defied all laws of physics, arrived, flashing fans with his “El Torito” horns. He was accompanied by his father, Odubel Herrera Sr, who had the privilege of joining his son at this year’s All Star Game with his wife in San Diego.
While fans anxiously awaited El Torito’s arrival, Ryan and Corey went around to get a pulse of the fans. They also wanted to get their thoughts on what they’d like to see regarding Ryan Howard and if they believe Herrera has a future with the ball club beyond this season.
Corey spoke with Andrew from Delaware, who made the trip all the way from Bensalem to meet the All Star. Corey asked Andrew who he thought the next All Star could be next season, and he rattled off “Altherr, Franco, or Nola.” All great choices, especially Altherr. Having an injury free Spring Training and a fair shake in the outfield could lead to a breakout year for the 25-year-old.
Corey then made his way to eight-year-old Joseph from Penndel. Joseph is a huge Phillies fan and before Corey could get a word in, Joseph expressed that Odubel is his “favorite [player] since Jimmy left.” In Joseph’s eight years of life, he has met countless Phillies players at the Phillies’ annual “Phillies Phestival,” which helps raise money for ALS research and awareness, four times.
Ryan’s first encounter was with Ashley and Joe from Bensalem. When asked what the Phillies should do with Howard for the final month of the season, the two unanimously agreed that the slugging first baseman should see the field more, arguing that “the team is out of contention anyway, so why not?” They also thought it would behoove Howard to showcase himself so he can sign with another team this offseason.
Kirk from Deleware and Carl from Bensalem agreed with Ashley and Joe in regards to Howard. They both thought that the 37-year-old had done enough during his Phillies to warrant a hero’s farewell. Every Phillies fan should agree with that rationale. The two are also confident that Herrera will be back with the Phillies next season, despite the crowded outfield situation, because of his energy and potential as a hitter.
Chris from Levittown was last up for Corey. When asked how he thought the Howard situation should be handled, Chris said, “I would like to see him go out go out with a bang.” That was much of the consensus regarding Howard, to get his last chance to play in Phillies pinstripes.
Herrera, with his hat defying the laws of physics even more than before, greeted every wide-eyed fan with a smile, and in some cases, a handshake. The Rule 5 pick is still in the process of learning English, but that didn’t stop him from communicating with his adoring fans the best he could. Unfortunately for Corey and Ryan, Herrera’s tardiness cost him valuable time after he was finished signing autographs, and with a game to be played just a few hours later, Herrera had to report back to Citizen’s Bank Park before Pete Mackanin wondered about his starting center fielder’s whereabouts.
While he was clearly in a hurry, the two approached Herrera while he was packing up to leave to ask him a couple of questions. He was straight forward, and delivered a sincere “Sorry guys, I have to go to the ballpark.” He and his father left the venue, his hat still, somehow, on his head.
With just 23 games left on the 2016 schedule, we’ll see if Herrera can finish 2016 as strong as he started it and prove to the Phillies’ front office that he can be a contributor beyond this season.