Vlad receives hero's welcome in return to DR

'This is proof that you have to pursue your dreams,' newly elected Hall of Famer says

January 29th, 2018

Celebrating its rich baseball history in conjunction with its third player elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Dominican Republic honored Vladimir Guerrero with a day-long celebration and parade on Sunday.

Guerrero, who was elected in his second year on the Hall of Fame ballot, received 92.9 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers' Association of America electorate. He will join Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Trevor Hoffman, Alan Trammell and Jack Morris as the 2018 Hall of Fame class that will be enshrined in July.

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During his 16 seasons, Guerrero was as recognizable for his wide grin and lack of batting gloves as he was for his passion and love for his homeland. On Sunday, hundreds of people waited for Guerrero at the International Airport of Las Americas in Santo Domingo and followed him along the road en route to a celebration that included a mixture of music and merengue.

"This award is for the entire Dominican Republic, it's for all of us," Guerrero said. "This is proof that you have to pursue your dreams. When I signed, a lot of people said I would last only three months and that I was going to be released. Today I can say I played in the big leagues for 16 years."

"Only greats get to receive this kind of honor," said Francisco Javier Garcia, who serves as minister of tourism and led the ceremony in honor of Guerrero on Sunday. "We all agreed that Vladimir deserved to be in the Hall of Fame because of his numbers, but also for his humility, integrity and hard work. Not only he played with his muscles, but with his heart, too."

Guerrero was joined by his parents, his eight children, his wife, brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces and other relatives in celebration, as well as another party in his native Don Gregorio.

One of the most electrifying and unconventional hitters of his generation, Guerrero is the first Dominican-born position player to be elected to the Hall of Fame, joining pitchers Pedro Martinez and Juan Marichal.

"They were the ones that really opened the door for us in the big leagues," Guerrero said. "But now there is a wave of [Dominican] players that are knocking on the door like David Ortiz, and , players that have the numbers to be in the Hall of Fame."

"The more I thought about that as a player, the more I think about it, is I want to be with the people who saw me grow up and share the success that I've had with those people," Guerrero said at his Hall of Fame news conference earlier this week. "To this day, those are my people and certainly in keeping that in mind and being mindful of that is what keeps me grounded."

"It's about the whole country," Guerrero said of being elected. "It's about celebrating Latin America. And to see what I did over 16 years in the big leagues, it makes me feel very privileged. ... I would like to see more Latin Americans come and be part of this whole special presentation and announcement into the Hall of Fame."

Guerrero played most of his 16 Major League seasons as a right fielder for the Expos and the Angels, with one-year stints with the Rangers and Orioles at the end of his career. He retired following the 2011 season with a .318 career batting average, 449 home runs, 1,496 RBIs and 2,590 hits.

In his Hall of Fame news conference, Guerrero announced that he will don an Angels cap on his plaque in Cooperstown, making him the first Angels player to be represented in the Hall of Fame in the club's 57 seasons of play.

"It was very hard. I feel grateful for the opportunity the Expos gave me," he said. "In Anaheim, I won the MVP. If I could wear both caps, I'd do it, but that's not allowed."