I remember one of the best men I ever played for; Angel Herrera.
Few people can command a room like Angel Herrera could. Before a game, during a game, after a game, it didn’t matter; if Angel was speaking, you could not help but listen. This was one of his many gifts as a baseball coach and a molder of young men.
Man, how I would love to hear one of his signature fire-and-brimstone speeches one last time.
Angel passed away yesterday at the age of 41. He was a part of the South Florida baseball scene for nearly two decades, most notably as the head coach of Miami Killian Senior High and the Florida Legends. Manny Machado. Anthony Rizzo. Albert Almora. Andrew Suarez. J.P. Arencibia. All names you recognize. All guided by Angel at some point, and the list goes on. They all sat in awe at some point, transfixed on their coach as he spoke. They all laughed with him at some point, as few men had quicker wits than him. They all celebrated with him at some point, for if there was one thing Angel’s teams always did, it’s win.
Now, at some point, they will all mourn his passing.
Coaches and managers often pay lip service to how much they care about their players. You hear phrases thrown around about how they would “Go to war with this team,” or “Do anything for these guys.” Do they really mean it? Would they really have your back no matter what? How much do they really care about you?
Would your coach be willing to take on 25 opposing players and coaches by himself? Because Angel Herrera would, and Angel Herrera did, and in the 2011 Connie Mack World Series no less. Our catcher had just gotten drilled in the head. This had already been a contentious game, so we knew that something of this nature might happen. It did, and that was when Angel, who stood right next to their dugout down the 3rd base line, immediately expressed his…uh…displeasure with their antics, shall we say. He did not have any backup; we were all on the other side of the field. He didn’t care.
To this day, I do not know how that team was able to hold back that raging bull of a man.
That was Angel, though. No empty word ever rolled off his tongue. He loved his players just like he loved his family, and he was really willing to do anything for them. The summer I played for him and the Legends was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, thanks in no small part to the big man down the 3rd base line. He will be dearly missed by the countless people he touched during his short, but brilliant, life, myself included.
I love you, Coach. Rest in peace.