Herrera shovels way through offseason workouts

Brewers' Dominican utility man taking advantage of snowfall to help his game

Herrera shovels way through offseason workouts

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers utility man Elian Herrera is the rare Dominican ballplayer whose offseason training regimen includes shoveling snow.

Herrera married a Midwestern girl, and when his winters in Michigan come up in conversation with a Dominican countryman, the word "crazy" is common.

"Almost everybody says that," Herrera says with a laugh.

Herrera hails from San Pedro de Macoris, which also produced Robinson Cano, Alfonso Soriano, Sammy Sosa and a slew of other big leaguers. But he met his future wife in 2009 while playing Class A ball in Midland, Mich., in the Dodgers' system, and eventually settled in snow country. Now he splits his offseason between snowy Michigan and the sunny Dominican Republic, where Herrera plays for Estrellas in that country's Winter League.

"Winter takes getting used to," he said by telephone this week. "To be honest, I don't always like it. I can take it for a week or something like that, but I love to be outside. I like to barbecue in the afternoon, or take my coffee outside in the morning.

"Now, I can see my daughter in the backyard, and all I see is snow. You can't take any coffee out there."

Herrera had never even seen snow until 2007, when he played in Utah's Pioneer League and could see white from afar, up in the mountains. He'd never shoveled snow until 2009, before he and Staci were married.

They wed in 2010 and between them have four children, including a daughter who is just starting school and a son who will turn 2 this year. Herrera's new home is a long way from the beaches of San Pedro de Macoris in Birch Run, Michigan halfway between Saginaw to the north and Flint to the south.

His family members in the Dominican Republic still require some convincing of the beauties of the Midwest.

"Last year, I went to some members of my family and said, 'Do you want to go with me back to Michigan?' They all said no way, it's too cold," Herrera said. "They didn't want to go.

"They made a good call. There was one week it was so cold, we didn't go out of my house for seven days."

When he's stateside, Herrera works out in a fully-stocked basement gym, which includes weight equipment and a makeshift batting cage large enough to take swings. For a more formal baseball workout, he travels 20 minutes to Saginaw or Flint to larger batting cages. He occasionally volunteers at a high school in Birch Run, teaching kids baseball.

Every November, he heads home to the D.R. for winter ball, always returning before Christmas. If his team makes the playoffs, Herrera returns after the holidays for more baseball. This year, he was asked to play for the D.R.'s entry to the Caribbean Series in Puerto Rico, and just returned stateside last week.

Later this week, Herrera will return to warmer weather. He was removed from Milwaukee's 40-man roster this offseason but garnered an invitation to big league Spring Training camp, where the 30-year-old will bid again for a spot on the Brewers' roster.

"I'm ready to go," he said.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.