July 19, 2024

Dodgers ball boy Javier Herrera on saving Shohei Ohtani from foul ball: ‘I was just doing my job’

SAN FRANCISCO — The Los Angeles Dodgers avoided an unmitigated disaster with baseball’s $700 million man Wednesday night in Chicago. For that, Shohei Ohtani and the organization can thank the man with the softest hands of any clubhouse attendant in the game.

Javier Herrera, 38, has been a Dodgers employee for 18 seasons, long enough to make his duties as ball boy Wednesday night a title even he chuckled at. Yet when Kiké Hernández lined a screamer toward the visitors dugout in the Dodgers’ 4-0 win over the Chicago White Sox, Herrera’s presence proved vital.

He caught the ball without hesitation and fluidly corralled it before it could beeline into Ohtani, who was standing behind him getting set for his next at-bat.

“I don’t know what happened,” Herrera said Friday, with his and Ohtani’s safety secured. “I was just doing my job. … I saw the pitch all the way through, it hit the bat, and the ball pretty much found me. But I was able to grab it.”

The play, caught on Japanese television, quickly went viral, running on the league’s social media platforms as Ohtani and interpreter Will Ireton expressed their amazement. Herrera himself came away impressed with his fluid feat, saying he watched the clip close to 100 times.

“My hero,” Ohtani posted on his Instagram story, accompanying it with a video of Herrera chatting up reporters Friday in San Francisco. The scrum was among the best-attended of the season, including fellow clubhouse attendants, the Dodgers’ head of security and even reliever Alex Vesia.

“He needs an extension, or a raise,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I was obviously right next to him, but I didn’t appreciate how close it was, you know, going towards Shohei. And what a great play it was. So, very quick reaction from Javi and very grateful.”

No extension appears imminent. Nor a raise. Not even a Porsche (or a toy version, which Ohtani gifted Roberts).

“These are all just rumors,” Herrera quipped ahead of another day retrieving baseballs for the sport’s glitziest club.

Herrera’s heroics were hardly the first time the clubbie — always among the popular members of the Dodgers’ support staff — has drawn rave reviews, much less social media attention. In 2016, Herrera took a tumble attempting to retrieve a foul popup down the line, catching the attention of the Vin Scully-fueled broadcast.

“I fell on my,” Herrera said, stopping himself. “I fell.”

This clip, he said, felt much better — even if his hands sting a little.

“I’m the hero on this one, I guess,” he said.

(Photo of Shohei Ohtani: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)