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Chico is the man in Dodgers’ intrasquad games

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VIDEO |
Chico: the making of a Dodger legend

Francisco Herrera, the man known as Chico, has been a Dodgers clubhouse attendant since 2008. Here’s how he rose to summer camp stardom with the team.

Chris Taylor made a mistake in the second inning of the Dodgers’ intrasquad game Saturday. He ran on Chico.

Taylor tagged up from first base on a routine fly ball to left field, where Chico camped under it. Chico, No. 97, fired a strike to second base that easily beat Taylor for a double play. Both teams erupted with cheers and laughter inside an empty Dodger Stadium. The lesson was clear: Don’t run on Chico.

Francisco Herrera, the man known as Chico, is on the Dodgers’ payroll but not as a player. He’s been a clubhouse attendant — a clubbie in baseball speak — since 2008, initially in a part-time role and now in a full-time capacity.

He hasn’t played competitive baseball since his two years playing shortstop at Los Angeles Valley College a decade ago. But the Dodgers have needed a body as a result of a shortage of players and they’ve turned to Herrera. The Hollywood native has been the left fielder for one of the two teams in the Dodgers’ six scrimmages played in training camp, occasionally snatching the spotlight from the major leaguers around him.

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“It’s been surreal,” Herrera, 30, said. “The guys are loving it and I’m just going out there and having fun.”

Intrasquad games are central to the three-week training camp major league clubs are holding in preparation for the season. With teams confined to their home stadiums, the games have replaced Cactus and Grapefruit League exhibitions as the best way for players to accrue competitive reps for the first two weeks of training.

The Dodgers are scheduled to hold five more scrimmages before playing two exhibition games against the Arizona Diamondbacks and one against the Angels in their final tune-ups. Opening day is slated for July 23.

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“It’s very comparable,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of the scrimmages. “Guys are still preparing the right way. As long as you’re playing, competing and you have that mind-set to get better, then you still evaluate.”

The Dodgers have blended the work in a relaxed setting. Bench coach Bob Geren, a former big league catcher, occasionally takes playful banter for his calls as the home plate umpire. Members of the coaching staff have sung the national anthem before first pitch to varying success. Trash talk punctuates the eerie silence when the music isn’t echoing.

On Saturday, Mookie Betts cracked a solo home run off Josiah Gray, one of the team’s top prospects. Justin Turner added a two-run home run en route to the home team’s 4-3 win.

Chico, however, stole the show to avenge his rough debut.

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Herrera caught for pitchers during the league’s shutdown but he didn’t expect to play in scrimmages. Turner informed him he was going to suit up for one of the teams during batting practice before the team’s first scrimmage.

Herrera was shocked. Then he got nervous. Then Taylor tested him early in the game with a line drive that he misplayed. The single turned into a triple.

“That was a very embarrassing moment,” Herrera said. “I had to go run to the ball. It was a long run.”

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Herrera has since proved to be a sure-handed left fielder. His skills as a hitter, meanwhile, remain unclear because he hasn’t been given the chance to hit.

Roberts said Herrera won’t get an at-bat — the precious few available in training camp will go to players preparing for the season. But players want to see it. On Thursday, Turner took batting practice in a cut-off blue T-shirt with #LetChicoHit splashed on the front. Herrera is cool with sticking to defense.

“I haven’t swung a bat in a while,” Herrera said. “I’d make myself look like a fool out there.”


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