The legend of Chico, explained

A clubhouse attendant is stealing the show at Dodgers camp

July 15th, 2020
Art by Tom Forget

Take a look at this this catch by a Dodgers ballboy back in 2010.

Pretty amazing, yes, but not totally uncommon. Ballboys and girls often make catches that reach the highlight reels.

But what if I told you that, 10 years later, this same ballboy would be intimidating Major League Baseball baserunners with his golden arm?

That he would be throwing out veteran players like Chris Taylor from 200 feet away?

That he would be robbing former MVPs like Mookie Betts with wall-crashing grabs?

This is the story of clubhouse-attendant-turned-Dodgers-legend Chico.

Who is he?

His full name is Francisco Herrera and he's been a clubhouse attendant for the Dodgers since 2008 -- separating mail, washing cars, serving as a ballboy and doing the other tasks needed to keep a big league clubhouse in order.

Has he played competitive baseball before?

Yes, he hit .500 as a senior in high school and was an elite base stealer. He was then a shortstop for two years at Los Angeles Valley College, but judging from this stats page, he hit just .239 with 12 errors over 34 games.

So, like, he's never had any pro baseball experience?

Well, he did garner an open tryout with Los Angeles in 2012 thanks to a serendipitous encounter with former Dodger Jon Garland.

As Chico told ESPN at the time: “Jon Garland and I were playing catch in the outfield,” Herrera said. “He was hurting at the time, but he could still play catch and he’s like, ‘You really do have a good arm. When are you going to try out?'"

Garland then spoke to Dodgers' assistant general manager for player development and Chico, who was playing at Lehigh Valley at the time, was invited to an open tryout in the spring. (His catch down the left-field line as a ballboy was even referenced as a reason why he should be considered).

Unfortunately, he didn't make the cut. His hitting held him back.

How did he get into the Dodgers outfield during 2020 Summer Camp?

With Covid-19 forcing some players to miss time and the team not having their normal expanded roster to work with, the Dodgers were in need of some extra defensive bodies. Because of Chico's reputation as a solid ballplayer and the fact that he seems to be extremely well-liked by Dodger players, Chico has finally gotten to live out his wildest dreams. He has superstar slogans and TV interviews. It's a movie in the making.

"It's been surreal," the 30-year-old told the L.A. Times. “The guys are loving it and I’m just going out there and having fun.”

Can he actually make the team?

I mean, no. It's fun to think about but extremely unlikely. It's never really happened before. Manager Dave Roberts even said over the weekend that Chico's playing days are over. But then, perhaps because he, like the rest of us, is helpless against the power of Chico, Roberts put him back in the outfield on Tuesday. That's when Chico pulled off perhaps his best highlight yet.

We can't blame Roberts. Who in their right mind would bet against an outfield of Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts and Chico?