Iser making most of chance with Cutters

Not a day goes by where Herbert Iser doesn’t appreciate playing baseball. He knows how fortunate he is considering where his parents come from.

After all, they don’t let the Williamsport Crosscutters’ catcher forget he’s the only member of their family to be born free in the United States. His father, Alfredo Iser, and mother, Maria Olivero, both defected from Cuba to Jamaica where Herbert was born in 1997.

Iser knows he’s lucky to have the opportunity to play baseball professionally. So the 23rd-round draft pick out of Dallas Baptist University is taking advantage of the opportunity to work and make the most of the chance he has.

“I’ve heard the stories before about how my parents defected from Cuba, and it’s eye-opening. It helps me appreciate all this,” Iser said following batting practice at Bowman Field on Thursday. “They always tell me to appreciate things because where they come from, there’s not much.”

Iser’s father is the one who has instilled in him the work ethic it’s taken to get Iser to this level. Alfredo was a member of the Cuban national cycling team before defecting. So when time came as a younger player where Iser didn’t feel like putting in work, his father would tell tales of how at Iser’s age he would already be cycling up mountains for hours at a time.

That guilt trip always rang true to Iser, though. And he’d always find time to get out and work on some part of his game. And it’s that work ethic which made Iser one of the top catching prospects in the country coming out of high school in Miami. He impressed scouts at various showcase events as a high schooler and went on to play at San Jacinto College in Texas.

Iser was selected in the 24th round by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2018 draft and, while his father wanted him to begin his pro career then, Iser felt he would benefit from one more year of college ball. So he transferred to Dallas Baptist, which has produced former Crosscutters Austin Listi and Darick Hall in recent years, and hit .280 with seven home runs and 34 RBIs in 52 games for the Patriots.

The Phillies selected Iser in the 23rd round in June’s draft and he played five games in the Gulf Coast League before joining Williamsport. In his first game with the Cutters, Iser hit a bomb of a home run to right-center field for his first professional home run. It’s been a rough go for Iser since then. He came into Thursday’s game against Vermont hitting .111 in five games.

He’s one of three members of a catching rotation which includes Juan Aparicio and Logan O’Hoppe, two of the better prospects on the team. But it’s exactly that internal competition which helps push Iser every day. After all, competing against his own teammates is nothing like competing against his own father, who was also a baseball player. Alfredo was still beating his son in home run derbies through high school.

“That’s what’s helped make me the person I am today,” Iser said. “He still competes with me to this day. He likes to get in my mind. It’s the Latin nature. He’ll mess with you, but he taught me how to be mentally tough.”

Iser was born in Jamaica after his parents defected there. He was named after the Jamaican Minister of Health, Dr. Herbert Eldemire, who helped Iser’s parents find housing and food after defecting.

Baseball and life has since taken Iser all over the United States, playing both in high school showcases and in college. It’s not something which is lost on Iser. It’s why he appreciates the opportunity to play every day, even if it’s not in a game.

He found catching after deciding he no longer wanted to have lasers hit his way while he was playing third base growing up. It was a way for him to be involved in every pitch of the game and having a major impact on the game.

His father has helped mold the natural talent Iser possesses into a skillset which made him worthy of being drafted twice by Major League teams. It’s why they shared tears over the phone when the Phillies selected him last month knowing it was time to give pro ball a try.

Iser is hoping Alfredo is able to make it to Williamsport during the summer so they can share in this next phase of his career together.

“It comes back to not taking anything for granted,” Iser said. “I get to play a game that I love and I’m pretty good at and I get to do it freely and I get to express myself on the field. That’s how I think of it. There’s many people who would like to have this opportunity and don’t. So I don’t take it for granted.”