MONTREAL -- It was a scene that played out regularly in Montreal for eight years: The mention of Vladimir Guerrero's name over the Olympic Stadium sound system, followed by loud cheers and a standing ovation.On this night, it was for Vladimir Guerrero Jr., son of the Expos' fan favorite who
MONTREAL -- It was a scene that played out regularly in Montreal for eight years: The mention of Vladimir Guerrero's name over the Olympic Stadium sound system, followed by loud cheers and a standing ovation.
On this night, it was for Vladimir Guerrero Jr., son of the Expos' fan favorite who was back in Montreal 19 years and 10 days after being born there -- and 15 years since his father last suited up in the city.
"It was very nice of them," Guerrero said. "I was just happy. I said, 'OK, I'm back home now.'"
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons inserted Guerrero as a defensive replacement at third base in the seventh inning of Toronto's 5-3 exhibition loss to the Cardinals. The crowd began to cheer when it saw him on the scoreboard. Then came the announcement, followed by an even louder show of appreciation as the 25,335 in attendance stood on their feet.
"It was pretty cool," Gibbons said of the crowd's reaction. "I really enjoyed it, and I know he feels pretty good about that. His dad was a legend here."
"I was nervous when Gibbons said I was going into the game, but once I stepped on the field, it was just another baseball game for me," Guerrero said.
Guerrero, donning his father's No. 27, got out in two plate appearances, in the seventh and ninth. He never requested the number; it turned out to be a surprise one day after practice when he was packing his bag and saw the team had given it to him.
"I feel very proud that they did that for me," acknowledged Guerrero, who said his father was the first person he called when the Blue Jays told him he was making the trip to Montreal. "It motivates me to have my dad's number on my back and wear his number."
Following in the footsteps of a professional athlete father comes with inherent pressure. Add in the factor of a Hall of Fame career and sharing the same name and number. But the younger Guerrero doesn't see it that way. If anything, it just adds to the motivation.
"I don't feel pressure. I think it gives me more energy and excitement," Guerrero noted. "My dad's a Hall of Famer and I want to be like him. I'm just trying to give my 100 percent and have fun when I go out there, like he did."
Guerrero, the Blue Jays' top prospect per MLB Pipeline, showed glimpses of his father in the field when, in the eighth inning, he made up for bobbling a routine ground ball by throwing a missile to first for the out. He also showed how he differed from his father, holding up on a first strike in his first at-bat.
The elder Guerrero's willingness to swing at the plate was far from a secret, but his son learned the hard way to be more disciplined.
"It all started when I'd do batting practice with my dad," Guerrero said. "He threw a low ball; I hit it on the ground and it hit me in the nose. After that, I said, 'I don't want that to happen again, so I'm just going to hit strikes.' Since then, I think I've become a better hitter."
Guerrero was just a youngster when his father was in Montreal, just 4 years old when he said goodbye to the city. And although it has been quite some time, some memories came right back to him when he got to town.
His first stop upon arrival? Going for poutine, a Quebec dish consisting of french fries covered in gravy and cheese curds. And when he got to the stadium on Monday, he had his eyes peeled for another tasty memory.
"The first thing when I came in, I was looking for the ice cream machine because I remembered that, but I found out it's not there anymore," Guerrero said. "Every time I came here, the first thing was to eat ice cream from that machine."
While he's enjoying a return to his youth and the memories of his father's time in Montreal, Guerrero is slated to begin his season in Double-A. He noted he's very comfortable with the decision, knowing the organization has his best interests in mind.
Guerrero has played several games against big league talent in Spring Training. He has soaked up as much as he can in those outings and knows that one day, he'll get the call.
"I think there's always room for improvement. I need to improve at the plate and defensively," Guerrero said. "I think that will come with experience. The more I play, the better I'll get. It'll come with time."
And as Guerrero learns to get his game ready for eventual duty with the Blue Jays, he'll do so with lessons learned from his Hall of Fame-bound father.
"What I learned the most from my dad was to be humble and have fun every time I go out on the field and give a hundred percent," Guerrero. "That's what I do, and that's what I'll keep doing."
Heather Engel is a contributor to MLB.com.