When Odubel Herrera Met Big Papi at Dinner in Philly, a Hitting Lesson Broke Out - NBC 10 Philadelphia

When Odubel Herrera Met Big Papi at Dinner in Philly, a Hitting Lesson Broke Out



    When Odubel Herrera Met Big Papi at Dinner in Philly, a Hitting Lesson Broke Out
    When Odubel Herrera met Big Papi at dinner in Philly, a hitting lesson broke out

    ST. LOUIS -- Imagine this for a second.
    You're a young baseball player and David Ortiz offers you a private hitting lesson.
    In the middle of a busy restaurant.
    In Center City Philadelphia.
    It happened to Odubel Herrera.
    "Fogo de Chao en Filadelfia," Herrera said with a laugh over the weekend in St. Louis.
    Herrera and his agents, Victor Tranquillo and Leo Gomez, dined at the Chestnut Street restaurant after the Phillies' opening-day game in April 2015. It happened to be Herrera's first major-league game. The Phillies lost, 8-0, to the Boston Red Sox that day. Hours later, Herrera looked across the restaurant and saw one of his boyhood idols, Red Sox slugger Ortiz, having dinner.
    The two gave each other a big wave.
    After finishing his dinner, Ortiz walked over to the Herrera table, greeted everyone and started talking hitting with the young Phillies rookie.
    "He gave me some tips," Herrera said with the assistance of Diego Ettedgui, the Phillies' Spanish-language translator. "He noticed I had a high leg kick similar to his. We talked about that."
    Ortiz warned Herrera that pitchers would try to exploit the leg kick and try to upset his timing at the plate. He offered Herrera advice on how to prevent that from happening.
    As Ortiz, Big Papi to his friends, spoke to Herrera he got a little animated and started demonstrating the leg kick - right in the middle of Fogo de Chao in Center City.
    What a sight that must have been.
    With the Phillies getting set to play Monday and Tuesday nights against Red Sox at Fenway Park, Herrera recalled his encounter with Ortiz two years ago. Ortiz retired (with 541 homers) after last season, his 20th in the majors. Meeting Ortiz that night two years ago was a thrill, Herrera said. It brought him back to his youth in Venezuela and stirred memories of watching the Red Sox and New York Yankees on television, back when their rivalry seemed to dominate the sport.
    "When I was little, in my town, all you heard about was Yankees-Red Sox, Yankees-Red Sox, Yankees-Red Sox," Herrera said. "It was a huge rivalry and it was always on TV."
    Herrera's dad - Odubel Sr. - was a Red Sox fan because he liked that they were the underdog, at least for a while, in that old rivalry. So little Odubel became a Sox fan, too.
    "I liked Johnny Damon, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez," Herrera said.
    Herrera gushed with excitement as he recalled watching the history-making 2004 American League Championship Series on television.
    "When the Red Sox went down three-nothing and came back to win it, that was huge," he said. "It was unbelievable.
    "(Curt) Schilling. Wow! It was crazy to see blood on his sock."
    Those days of watching the Red Sox-Yankees postseason epics made such an impact on Herrera that he still vividly recalls the first time he stepped foot in Fenway Park and calls it one of his greatest baseball thrills. It was in September 2015, his rookie season.
    "I remember looking around, seeing the field and all the fans," he said. "When my time came and I stepped foot in Fenway Park - that's when it hit me. I was like, 'Wow, I'm a big-leaguer. Now I know that I've made it.' "
    Herrera quietly reflected on the moment.
    "I'm getting goosebumps right now talking about it," he said. "It's my favorite park."
    Herrera will have to check his emotions at the door when he plays in Fenway Park on Monday night.
    He says that won't be a problem.
    "I've been a fan of the Red Sox …" he said in Spanish.
    "No, no, no," he said, catching himself.
    He paused, laughed and spoke in English.
    "I was a fan of the Red Sox."