Soyen Shaku, the first Zen teacher to come to America, said: “My heart burns like fire but my eyes are as cold as dead ashes.” He made a number of rules which he practiced every day of his life. Among these, he included the following.
- Do not regret the past. Look to the future.
- Have the fearless attitude of a hero and the loving heart of a child.
When I read those for the first time, I thought they represented the approach of Odubel Herrera at the plate and on the field.
Lots of things happened tonight. Jorge Alfaro had a great game. He drove a ball 415 feet to dead center so effortlessly that it was actually shocking.
Aaron Nola buckled down and ground out 7 innings without his best stuff and after a rocky first inning where he coughed up 3 runs. Ronald Acuna gave me nightmares about what we may see from him for the next decade. Carlos Santana walked twice. Rhys Hoskins kept hitting. J.P. Crawford continued to struggle and grow in the two steps forward, one step back way that only a really young player can.
But Odubel Herrera was the story tonight.
He’s been the story often during his stay in Philadelphia, and not always for the reasons he should be. Tonight it was for two home runs that were absolute lasers to right. The first, a three run shot in the bottom of the first to tie up the game the Phillies were losing 3 - 0, looked to me to be a double right off the bat. It rocketed out on a trajectory that seemed to make it impossible to be a home run. It was a cruise missile that made me wonder if it broke the hand of the person who tried to bare-hand it. The second was a near twin, but not as extreme. It put the Phillies ahead for good. Those four runs won the game for the Phillies.
The first homer was particularly notable, as it was the Odubelist of his home runs this year. It came on the first pitch of an at bat that followed two walks to the first two batters by Braves’ starter Julio Teheran. Take a pitch, right? That’s the smart baseball play, right? That’s what Chase Utley did, right? All true. But Herrera struck like lightning and drilled the ball into the seats in right and turned the game on a dime. Herrera did it because he is not Chase Utley. He did it because he’s Odubel Herrera. The only thing Odubeler would have been to hit it into the seats from off the top of his shoelaces.
Odubel Herrera plays in but is not of Philadelphia. He is not of this world. He’s an elemental spirit visiting us for a while. He’s the wind blowing through the reeds at the edge of a stream.
Shine the sun on a mirror behind the world, break it into a million pieces, and you’ll find a glittering shard in his heart. He shines that light back on all of us when he plays.
That said, Herrera is human, which is to say he is, like all of us, flawed. All of us except for the new Galahad, Rhys Hoskins. Herrera’s humanity speaks to my fandom more than the impossibility of the near perfection of Hoskins (despite Hoskins’ TOOTBLAN tonight).
Herrera’s game reminds me of nothing so much as the story of the son and his father the master and the garden:
“Rikiu was watching his son Shoan as he swept and watered the garden path. ‘Not clean enough,’ said Rikiu, when Shoan had finished his task, and bade him try again. After a weary hour the son turned to Rikiu: ‘Father, there is nothing more to be done. The steps have been washed for the third time, the stone lanterns and the trees are well sprinkled with water, moss and lichens are shining with a fresh verdure; not a twig, not a leaf have I left on the ground.’ ‘Young fool,’ chided the tea-master, ‘that is not the way a garden path should be swept.’ Saying this, Rikiu stepped into the garden, shook a tree and scattered over the garden gold and crimson leaves, scraps of the brocade of autumn!
What Rikiu demanded was not cleanliness alone, but the beautiful and the natural also.”
Herrera’s game has disorderly gold and crimson leaves, but is no less beautiful for it. There will be in every game at least one plate appearance where he’s as likely to swing at balls in the dirt and out of the zone as he is to loop a double down the left field line. But he brings back home runs. Hits balls into the second deck. Tracks down ball after ball in the outfield. And he plays with joy.
I never saw Mark Fidrych pitch, but I feel like Odubel Herrera is our singular opportunity to experience some of that joy and innocence and greatness. He’s not Chase Utley or Pete Rose. He never will be. He’s something else that is, in its way, just as remarkable and perhaps even more rare. You’ll tell your children about how fun — and unique — he was to watch.
Let go of your attachments and love Odubel Herrera’s game.
Odubel Herrera is...
This poll is closed
The wind beneath my wings
The apple of my eye
A fallen leaf in the zen garden
An astral spirit passing through our dimension