SCOTTSDALE, Arizona - In the Colorado Rockies clubhouse, the camaraderie between the eight Venezuela-born players on the 40-man roster is evident, and it is certainly not a publicity stunt or a fantasy created by proud and anxious fans by having so many guys from a same country with the same team.
Jonathan Herrera and Marco Scutaro have neighboring lockers. The chemistry has been immediate. Their stories have different timing: Scutaro started in organized American baseball in 1995 with 10 years in the Majors, spanning six organizations during his time in the States. Herrera has spent his entire career with the Rockies since he was signed as an amateur free agent in 2002.
"Being with Marco has been amazing. You cannot measure how much it benefits us having a player of his tenure and reputation. Our mutual work has been great," said Herrera, 27. "It is important to have someone like him, a man of his stature in the baseball world, with such an experience and respect among his peers. He's a great guy as well, we all get along."
For Herrera this is a year of definitions: after his first full season in the Majors he left his coaches and staff satisfied. Therefore, his goal is to consolidate as an everyday player.
"I have not been told anything specific about the plans they have for me for the upcoming season; but things have been great so far. My hitting has improved steadily and defensively speaking I cannot complain at all, thank God. I believe there are plenty of chances to be at the Opening Day lineup. That's my objective, that's what I'm focused on. I'm trying to be here since Day 1," Herrera said.
It has been a tough winter for Herrera: he didn't play in his native Venezuela due to his mother's passing. This was especially difficult for the infielder, who considered her his guide and even his muse.
"It is hard to overcome something of such magnitude. Throughout the months, I've been able to cope a little with it. Of course, you'll never get over it, but I've been able to have the perspective I need so I can work during the Spring," Herrera said.
"I'm more focused on where I want to be. I will do my best effort with all the motivation I can find. I'm here to keep my mother's dream alive, which was seeing me here, playing Major League Baseball. I know she will keep on seeing me wherever she is right now, I know she's doing well. She will keep on supporting me, and I will do everything there is to do since this was her biggest aspiration. I want to achieve what she always wanted me to achieve."