Cardinals’ Ivan Herrera Credits Mom’s Visit For Hitting Success

Cardinals catcher

Getty Images St. Louis Cardinals catcher Ivan Herrera

The St. Louis Cardinals have had a rough start to the 2024 season. With a record of 20-25 through their first 45 games, the team has been hit with a combination of both insult and injury. Not the least of latter is starting catcher Willson Contreras, who was knocked out of action on May 7 with a broken arm in a game against the New York Mets.

Enter 23-year-old Ivan Herrera, a top-rated Cardinals prospect who had settled in as Contreras’ backup to start the year. The young star had shown flashes of brilliance during spring training, but he would now be counted on to become the everyday catcher for the first time in his brief MLB career.

Herrera has responded well, hitting .284 with three home runs and 15 runs batted in through his first 95 at-bats. He’s picked up for the offense lost from the Cardinal lineup when Contreras (who had a .280 average, six homers, and 12 RBIs) went down.

When asked about his success thus far, Contreras had a rather simple explanation. In a recent story from St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Lynn Worthy, Contreras stated that he believes his hitting prowess may be due to his mother’s home cooking.


A Special Visitor for the St. Louis Star

Herrera’s mother, Dona, has been staying with him as she visits from his native Panama. She’s been in the country for around two weeks, and when speaking to the local outlet, Ivan was quick to let them know that he gained extra strength at the plate from his mother’s presence – by not only their close connection but also all the meals she’s been preparing

“Since she came here, I started raking,” Herrera said, laughingly. “She’s probably going to start living with me too.”

He said that Dona being around the ballpark and seeing him play well was a special moment in his baseball career.

“Yeah, it is emotional,” he said. “I owe everything to her. She’s the reason why I’m here. I’m just happy I can make her proud, playing good in front of her.”

 

Aside from eating his mother’s cooking, Herrera is also learning to eat up breaking balls at the plate. He says that changing his approach, and not just waiting on a fastball in every at-bat, has helped drive his success.

“If you saw my previous at-bats, they were (throwing) a lot of off-speed,” Herrera said. “I was chasing because I was stubborn in my approach that ‘I want to get a fastball. I want to hit a fastball.’ Then I told (hitting coach) Turner (Ward) that I’m just going to sit off-speed because I know that’s what want to do with me.”

“I got the slider. Hit it pretty good. I saw it really good, almost tried to put it in the air. Got the job done. I’m just happy to help the team win.”


Ivan Herrera Must Work On His Defense

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol expressed his confidence in the young backstop and the rest of the players on the roster to climb back into contention. However, he’s also reminded Herrera of the parts of his game that he still needs to refine.

“At some point, you have to put what’s going on behind you and take a deep breath,” Marmol said. “Guys are – if I could narrow it down to something – just playing with confidence. You just see it. The way they’re carrying themselves. The way they’re holding their shoulders. Just taking the field looks different, and they’re getting results.”

 

One point of concern has been Herrera’s defense, and particularly his ability to throw out potential base stealers. The Cardinals catcher has allowed 24 of 25 runners to safely swipe a base against him this year. That’s a 96% success rate, and it certainly leaves the team vulnerable when there’s speed on the basepaths.

Marmol said recently that Herrera could do plenty of physical exercises and changes in technique so that he could find better success against future base burglars.

“There’s arm-strengthening stuff, as far as just being able to get on a long-toss program and actually gain something there,” Marmol said according to a report by the Post-Dispatch on May 9. “But his footwork, exchange, and being able to consistently throw and give himself the best shot on the right side of the bag is what he’s working on.”

“A lot of his misses are on that side. And that’s something that’s technical — you can improve that.”