For the first time since May 26, 2019, Odúbel Herrera suited up for the Philadelphia Phillies Tuesday. Herrera went 1-3 with a single and a stolen base, but how he performed in a 4-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays in the Grapefruit League was really an afterthought.
Prior to the game, Herrera spoke to players that were in Dunedin for approximately five minutes, explaining how difficult the past two years have been for him, and discussing how much pride he has in the Phillies organization and helping the team to win.
Of course, not all of the major league team was with the Phillies Tuesday. Among others, Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins and Didi Gregorius were not part of the exhibition game. Herrera has spoken to some team leaders – Aaron Nola has vouched for him receiving a second chance – but knows that he needs to have more difficult conversations, ones that will begin the process of showing how he believes that he’s improved himself as a person.
Ultimately, Herrera believes he’ll be accepted back by his teammates. He still has inroads to make in the court of public opinion, and he acknowledged as such after the game.
“I just want to say that about what I did in 2019, I feel sorry because I made a big mistake,” Herrera said Tuesday. “I know some people are not going to forgive me, and I understand that. But I have spent the last two years earning [his girlfriend] Melany’s trust back and I am grateful because she forgave me. Now, I would like to have the same opportunity with my teammates, our fans and the Phillies family. Thank you.”
Herrera hasn’t played for the Phillies since May of 2019, when he was arrested in Atlantic City after a domestic incident took place between him and his then-20-year-old girlfriend. The most notable portion of the police report alleged that “the victim had visible signs of injury to her arms and neck.” Herrera served an 85-game suspension in 2018 after his girlfriend chose not to move forward with a legal case against the outfielder.
In all likelihood, Herrera will be booed during all away games, perhaps for the remainder of his career, assuming he is granted an opportunity to play at the major league level again. Realistically, he’s probably going to hear some boos at home. Herrera is aware of this reality, and says that he will tune out boos and focus on proving that he’s a better person.
We don’t know the full extent of the counseling that Herrera has undergone since May of 2019, but he did say Tuesday that he participated in two months worth of counseling in Philadelphia, and then continued virtually with the same professional when he returned to Miami, where he resides. His girlfriend was present for at least some of these sessions.
So what did Herrera, now 29, take away from his therapy?
“I’ve learned a lot these past two years. I feel more mature. I have changed a lot about my personality. And I think I am a better person now.”
There will be a time and place to determine how, if at all, Herrera factors into a center field mix that also includes Scott Kingery, Adam Haseley and Roman Quinn. When asked, Herrera did say Tuesday afternoon that he believes he’s a better player than what he was two years ago. Considering how much he struggled both at the end of the 2018 season and the start of 2019, he’d better be. Quickly, though, he turned the discussion back to his growth as a person, saying “it’s good to be a better player and a better person.”
Manager Joe Girardi said after the game that he thought Herrera looked pretty good in his first action this spring, and that he figures to play again Thursday, when the Phillies host the New York Yankees. That game, unlike Tuesday’s, will be televised.
In his time away from the team, Herrera says he’s stayed in shape, hoping and believing for a chance to redeem himself. Just at a glance, he does appear to have stayed in very good shape. The former All-Star hopes to run with this chance.
“I was working hard because I know that people deserve a second chance and I was ready for this opportunity.”
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