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Ivan Herrera

Cardinal Ivan Herrera aims to make mom proud

Ivan Herrera improves defensively behind the plate

HOUSTON – Ivan Herrera finds motivation from his mother Dona Herrera when he steps onto the baseball diamond. The St. Louis Cardinals catcher was excited when his mother traveled from their native Panama to watch Ivan play in May. 

Dona was in St. Louis for two weeks, filling her son with his favorite Panamanian delicacies. She made sure her son was fueled and ready to play. Dona made one of her homemade Panamanian dishes called sancocho de pollo, which is a hearty soup with chicken and different vegetables.

Ivan took his mother to explore different attractions around St. Louis, including a trip to Busch Stadium. Ivan Herrera became the Cardinals’ starting catcher when starter Willson Contreras suffered a fractured left forearm. 

When Ivan was playing, Dona had a front row seat to watch her son perform behind the plate. 

Grateful son

“She made me cry saying, ‘Son, I’m so proud of you,’” Ivan Herrera said after a game she attended. “That’s the best thing you can hear from your family. Playing in front of her was just a dream come true making her proud in the big leagues.

“Just showing her all the sacrifices she did for me are paying off. I think it’s the best feeling for her too. For me, making her proud is amazing.”

Ivan Herrera was a multi-sport athlete growing up in Panama. He started playing soccer and baseball as a kid. At the age of 14, Herrera decided to start playing baseball full-time.


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He played multiple positions. Herrera caught behind the plate, pitched and had some starts in left field. As a 15-year-old adolescent, Herrera was named the best left fielder in the Panama league. He transitioned to becoming an everyday catcher, though.

On July 7, 2016, Herrera signed with the Cardinals as an international free agent. It was a dream come true for Herrera to sign with the Redbirds. 

Ivan Herrera learned from the best

The 24-year-old backstop followed the Cardinals. He admired the greatest catcher to sport the Cardinals’ uniform, Yadier Molina. Herrera was such a fan of Molina that he posted pictures of the two-time World Series champion on his Facebook page.

Herrera met the nine-time Gold Glove winner at the Cardinals spring training facility. Both catchers worked through different defensive drills and caught bullpens together.

When Herrera first approached Molina for advice, he was like a nervous child asking for an autograph from his favorite player. Nevertheless, when they started to strike a conversation, the future Hall of Famer changed Herrera’s perspective of the game.

“He’s a smart guy,” Herrera said of Molina. “He will talk about baseball all day, and that’s one of the things I admire about him. 

“The advice he always gave me was ‘Defense is more important than hitting.’ After I started hearing that from him, that’s when I started changing my mind because I used to be more of a hitting guy than a catcher. I think my defense has improved so much this year. I think he’s one of the reasons why I’m getting better at defense.”

Defensive improvement

Herrera has caught 40 games through 345 ⅔ innings this season. The native of Panama City, Panama, carries a 0.992 fielding percentage with 347 putouts, 11 assists, and only one error.

Moreover, he has improved on his blocking from last year with a 4 Blocks Above Average, according to baseball savant.

“His first year was a good taste for him to understand all the preparation that goes into navigating a lineup at the big league level,” Oliver Marmol said of Herrera. “He went into the offseason knowing there was a lot of work to be done in how he prepares. And he’s done a really nice job of adjusting to that. 

“So you look at him this year, the game is slower and he’s done a much better job of making sure that he’s ready for making in-game adjustments and being able to execute a game plan.”

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