Sarah's Take: Matt Herges
Looking at the thirty-one year-old reliever now, nobody would guess that Matt Herges spent seven years in the Los Angeles Dodgers' minor league system. This year, Herges and Jeff Shaw have both appeared in more than 70 games. Though he doesn't get much attention, except when he blows a lead, he has been one of the main factors in keeping the Dodgers in the division race through September.
Herges was a non-drafted free agent when the Dodgers signed him in 1992. I believe most non-drafted free agents do not make it to the major leagues, but Herges was determined to become a Dodger. During the time baseball used replacement players, Herges was one of the Dodgers in hopes of showing the Dodgers' management what he could do.
As most people do, Herges had a dream that he wanted to accomplish. Unlike many people, he had the opportunity to achieve his goal. He worked hard and had the determination to keep focused on it. He had an incredible amount of family support.
I can relate to Herges trying to achieve the goal. While working hard for an achievement, most people don't have much time for a social life. Working hard can be a lonely process, but the rewards are usually worth it. I spent about four years writing about the Dodgers on the Internet before I got recognized as a writer and was hired by the Dodgers. Sometimes I would ask myself why I don't just quit. However, the desire to become a paid Dodger writer kept me working toward it and kept me focused. Achieving the goal has been gratifying. I can't imagine how Matt felt when he made his debut.
Though Herges believed being a replacement player would advance his career, it didn't. Not many replacement players have reached the Major Leagues. When they do, they often face resentment from their teammates, but the Dodgers have accepted Herges as a member of the team. I think having to spend so long after the work stoppage to reach the Major Leagues has helped Herges' acceptance.
In August 1999 Herges got his chance to make his big league debut. For some reason, the Dodgers wanted to give the twenty-nine year-old reliever an opportunity to show what he could do. I don't remember much about Herges' debut, except his parents drove from Champagne, Ill. to Houston to witness it. After the Dodgers finished in Houston, they boarded their chartered airplane to fly to New York, and Mr. and Mrs. Herges hopped into their station wagon and drove all night to reach New York before the next game. Though this takes incredible amount of effort on Herges' parents to show their son that they supported him, I know my mother would do the same thing if she could.
In Spring Training of 2000, Matt Herges pitched well trying to make the 25-man roster. Davey Johnson was not sure that the team would benefit from having Herges, but he finally gave him an opportunity. Being the twenty-fifth man on the roster, Herges constantly heard rumors that he was going to be sent down to Triple-A in April, but he didn't allow a run during the month. After April, Herges and the team had no more doubts that he belonged in the Major Leagues.
In the 2000 season, Herges showed his versatility. At first he was the mop up man for the Dodgers. When he did well, he took over the setup job and performed with brilliance. When the Dodgers needed a starter, he tried his best, but he had more value as a reliever.
This year Herges has played a vital role in the hunt for the playoff berth for the Dodgers. Though they are out of the race now, they do not have Herges to blame. He has been playing on a sore knee that will need off-season surgery, but his rubber arm has preserved many games for the Dodgers. If Jeff Shaw retires after the season, Herges might be the Dodger closer in 2002.
The Matt Herges story should give people hope that if they work hard, they can accomplish just about anything. When he takes the field, I remember what he went through to get there. Herges' determination is a good example for the younger generation, and it will keep him in the Major Leagues for a long time.