By Quinton Amundson
DUNEDIN, Fla.— The Toronto Blue Jays have long held a special place in Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s heart.
The Canadian-born Blue Jays prospect cheered for the club growing up, even though his superstar father, Vladimir Guerrero Sr., played for the Montreal Expos for eight seasons.
“The first reason I’m a fan of the Blue Jays is because it is Canada’s team,” said Guerrero Jr. through a team translator. “I also knew about Roberto Alomar and about Carlos Delgado even though they were not playing at the time [I became a fan]. I knew a lot about them. I respect them all the time.”
Guerrero Jr. began his first minor-league spring training camp last Monday at the Bobby Mattick Training Center. One fan watching: his father.
“This was the first time I have seen him in the United States,” said Guerrero Sr. in a phone interview translated by a friend. “He looks good. I just hope he is given the opportunity to play every day and show what he’s really got.”
Baseball America highly regards the raw hitting power of Guerrero Jr. During his major league career, Guerrero Sr. was celebrated for that. He says his 16-year-old son has “more power than (I) did at that age.”
The 2004 American League Most Valuable Player and his son went about gathering their strength quite differently.
“When I was growing up I had to work in my grandfather’s field to get my strength," said Guerrero Sr., a native of the Dominican Republic. "Today they have weights, programs, schools and camps to work out, show their potential and show their strengths."
In addition to showcasing his slugging ability, Guerrero Jr., a former outfielder, is hoping to improve at third base, a position the Jays started playing him at last fall.
“I feel a little different because I haven’t really gotten the feel for third base, but I am hoping to get the feel for third base before the season starts.”
His goal is to impress the Blue Jays enough to warrant a roster spot on the Vancouver Canadians, Toronto’s class-A short season affiliate.
A year from now, Guerrero Jr. expects to be playing double-A baseball in the Blue Jays system. He is committed to making the Blue Jays roster before he turns 20.
“As long as he has his health,” his father says “and God helps him and takes care of him, he will do a great job in whatever he decides to do.”