Don Gregorio, Dominican Republic
March 16, 2015
Today, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. turns 16 years old, which may be a surprise to anyone who has seen him. Vlad Jr. will sign his first Major League contract on July 2, 2015 for a bonus expected to be in the multi-millions. If you’ve seen Vlad Jr. in person there is an undeniable resemblance to his father, Vladimir Guerrero Sr. His appearance, swing, stride, cannon arm, size; everything. I’ve worked with Vlad Jr. every day for the last seven months as he closes in on signing his contract.
The first time I saw him play I was simply shocked, and over time I knew that whatever team he ended up with would be getting a player who should be ready for the big leagues by age 20 or 21 and has the potential to be a perennial All-Star like his father. Its hard to predict any 16-year-old to be an MLB star, but this is a Bryce Harper situation, where everyone knows from a young age that they were simply born to play baseball. Vlad Jr. is the closest thing to a clone of his father you can get — its like he was created in a science lab. I have watched hundreds of scouts and representatives from all 30 MLB teams scout Vlad Jr. and none of them have left less than stunned. Vlad Jr. is 6’2” 220 pounds, an arm modeled after his father, the most beautiful swing of any 16-year-old on the planet, and a natural knack for the game that simply cannot be taught. Vlad Jr. was born with the natural talent that his father had, but that only motivates him more to work harder than everyone else. He has the Guerrero name to live up to, and he hopes to surpass his father in every aspect of the game.
I sat down with Vlad Jr. and Vlad Sr. at their home in the Dominican Republic to talk about the upcoming signing and what they believe the baseball world can expect from Vladimir Jr. The answers may surprise you; their expectations are high yet humble, but simply stated they believe there will be a Guerrero jersey running around on MLB fields for the next few decades.
The following is question and answer done with Vlad Jr. and Vlad Sr. translated into English:
- Q: How do you compare yourself at age 15 to your son?
- A: He has more power, a lot, I was very thin. Other than that we are the same player. We both played like men since we were very young.
- Q: How young do you think he can make it to the big leagues?
- A: With God I think he can make it 4 or 5 years after he signs this summer. If he works hard and that is what God wants.
- Q: What do you want him to accomplish with his career?
- A: I want him to beat my by one in everything, one more All-Star game, one more home run, one more hit, one more Silver Slugger.
- Q: While you were in the big leagues your entire family was always with you. What is your favorite memory with Vlad Jr.?
- A: All the All-Star games were the most fun. He wanted to be a bat boy but he had to stop after what happened in San Francisco with Dusty Baker‘s son. He got to warm up on the field with me whenever. I’m glad he experienced that.
- Q: When did you know he was a special baseball player?
- A: He was very little, we all knew. He was naturally so good, he looked like me.
- Q: How old were you when you knew you had the potential to sign with an MLB team?
- A: I was 10 years old. The people around me that watched me play knew I had the potential. They saw the way I played and said I would be a great player.
- Q: How is your game similar and different from your dad’s?
- A: We have the same swing, we both have strong arms, I want to steal bases like he did. I can’t think of anything that is different.
- Q: Who else do you look up to and base your game off of other than your dad?
- Q: What advice has your dad given you?
- A: Don’t look for problems with anyone, don’t be disobedient. Listen to the coaches who want the best for you.
- Q: How old where you when you started training seriously? When did you switch to a wood bat and when was your first home run on a big league field?
- A: I was 7 years old when I dedicated my life to baseball seriously. I started training at that age I was no longer just a kid playing baseball. I changed to a wood bat at age 11, which is something most of us do here in the Dominican. My first BP home run was at 10 years old around 320 feet. The first time I hit a home run in a game on the big field was at age 12 with the wood bat.
- Q: Describe a normal day in your training right now?
- A: I left school to play baseball full time years ago. I go to school on Saturdays. I wake up at 6:00 am and run on the beach, do sprints and sometimes long distance. Next at around 7:00 am we go to the field for flyballs and groundballs, then BP. After that we go to the gym around 10:00 am for an hour to do weight training. In the afternoon after we’ve eaten lunch we will practice for maybe three hours doing everything. Sometimes I have 1,000 swings a day, maybe twice a week. 600 swings on the other days. There are no days off, maybe sometimes on Sunday when I play softball.
- Q: Do you feel pressure because of all the success your dad had?
- A: No, I feel no pressure, I am confident in my own talent and ability.
- Q: How did you develop the power you have now? You once hit 33 HR’s on 60 swings in a homerun derby and can hit a ball over 400 feet in live games off of signed pitchers.
- A: Hard work. I have good natural talent but that is nothing without the hard work. I am dedicated to the game.
- Q: During tryouts or when your father is watching you seem to always perform better, do you agree?
- A: Yes, I play better with pressure, the ball goes farther.
- Q: What is your favorite memory with your dad while he was in MLB?
- A: Anytime he brought me on the field was the best, I loved playing with all the guys and warming up with them. When we beat the Yankees in the playoffs with Texas and advanced to the World Series, that was my favorite game.
- Q: Your dad was motivated to play baseball to get your family out of poverty; what is your motivation?
- A: I love baseball — that’s why I play. Money is not important — I play because I was born to play.
- Q: What are your goals when you reach MLB?
- A: I want to always be healthy and not get hurt. My dad had 9 All-Star games, I want 10. He only had like 450 homeruns, I am going to try to hit way more, like Bonds. I also want 3,000 hits, my dad just missed it.
- Q: Your uncle Wilton has trained you since you were 5 years old. What does he mean to you?
- A: After God, he is my guide. He taught me to play baseball.
- Q: Where was your favorite city your dad played in?
- A: Montreal. I love Canada. I don’t remember all of it because I was little but that was my favorite. I was always on the field.
- Q: Your cousin Gabby played in the Futures game last year, and your cousin Gregory is also set to sign for millions this year with you. How fun is it to go through this with them?
- A: Its fun to do this with family. We are playing for the Guerrero name. We always motivate each other to do better. We always want to do better than the other.