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Vlad Jr. rips dramatic walk-off HR in Montreal

Blue Jays top prospect electrifies Olympic Stadium, where father played with Expos
Special to MLB.com

MONTREAL -- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. followed in his Hall of Fame father's footsteps in a most fitting way at Olympic Stadium.

With the Cardinals and Blue Jays locked in a scoreless tie in the bottom of the ninth, Guerrero crushed the second pitch he saw from St. Louis righty Jack Flaherty deep to left-center field for a walk-off home run and a 1-0 Toronto victory on Tuesday night.

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MONTREAL -- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. followed in his Hall of Fame father's footsteps in a most fitting way at Olympic Stadium.

With the Cardinals and Blue Jays locked in a scoreless tie in the bottom of the ninth, Guerrero crushed the second pitch he saw from St. Louis righty Jack Flaherty deep to left-center field for a walk-off home run and a 1-0 Toronto victory on Tuesday night.

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The Blue Jays' No. 1 prospect, and No. 3 in MLB according to MLB Pipeline, is the son of Vladimir Guerrero, who spent the first eight seasons of his career playing his home games at Olympic Stadium with the Expos and hit seven of his nine career walk-off home runs there, three more than any other player at the ballpark. The last walk-off home run by the Expos was hit by Orlando Cabrera against the White Sox on June 20, 2004.

Vlad Sr. was elected to the Hall of Fame in January, garnering 92.9 percent of the vote in his second year on the ballot, and will be inducted this July.

Tweet from @VladGuerrero27: #priceless pic.twitter.com/dh3RUpcTjg

"I'm pretty sure my father has already seen it because he was watching the game," Guerrero said through an interpreter. "And he'll be very proud of me after seeing what I did."

Guerrero's mechanics at the plate look eerily similar to his father's -- the bare hands, the little twitch with his bat as the pitcher comes set. Add in the familiar face, and it's like going back in time. The expectation is that the young Guerrero will be able to generate a similar amount of power to his father, but the scary thing is he might do it with a much better recognition of the strike zone.

Side-by-side view of Vlad, Vlad Jr. hitting Olympic Stadium walk-off HRs

Wearing his father's No. 27, Guerrero tossed his helmet into the air as he neared home plate following his walk-off homer and hopped across the Olympic Stadium turf into a mob of Blue Jays teammates.

Tweet from @thehazelmae: Vladdy Jr. said postgame that he didn���t request his dad���s number, but when he was packing for the trip to #Montreal, someone from the #Bluejays had already put the #27 jersey in his bag as a surprise. https://t.co/fnO7b00B0t

"Every now and then in this game you'll see something like that, just something dramatic happens," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "And he was a toddler running around this place when his daddy was here. And I guarantee his dad did that a few times. I would say everything lined up perfectly."

The crowd of 25,816 gave him an extended ovation, prompting a curtain call from the 19-year-old phenom.

"That was justified," Toronto catcher Russell Martin said of the fans' reaction. "I mean, he gave the fans what they wanted. They wanted to see something special from the kid and he delivered. And he just lifted his whole team at the same time. So hopefully, if we look back at this time next year, he'll be the reason that we look back and say that we had a good start."

Video: MLB Tonight discusses Vlad Jr. walk-off homer

"It didn't feel like it was just the crowd here, I felt like the whole world was just pulling for me," said Guerrero, who used to take batting practice at Olympic Stadium as a child. "And it just makes you feel a little bit more comfortable going out there and trying to do your best."

Guerrero was signed by the Blue Jays for $3.9 million -- the second-highest international signing in franchise history -- on July 2, 2015. His enormous talent was obvious the following year during his pro debut in the Rookie-level Appalachian League, and then even more so during his full-season debut in 2017, when, at age 18, Guerrero produced a .323/.425/.485 slash line with 13 homers between Class A Lansing and Class A Advanced Dunedin. He earned Midwest League All-Star honors in the process, as well as a trip to the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in July before a torrid second half in the Florida State League.

"He doesn't have his dad's arm or speed, have to be truthful on that, but he's only 16," Blue Jays special assistant of Latin American operations Ismael Cruz said when they signed him. "He has a better bat now than his father did at that age and it's not a swing that's going to go away, he's had it for a long time and he has always hit. ... He's hit all his life and he's always faced competition above him.

"Those kind of guys don't come across very often. So it was either play all of your marbles on one guy or it was go out and get a couple of players that are fine, but for us, Vladimir is a difference-maker. He has the potential to be a very, very special kid."

Video: Vlad Jr. has a momentous week in Montreal

In his first taste of Major League games this Spring Training, Guerrero had seven hits in 13 at-bats (.538) with a double, a homer and two RBIs. And he only struck out once. He is expected to start this season at Double-A New Hampshire.

"When you play with other players that have more experience than you, it motivates you and you learn a lot about you," he said. "And for me, I'm just trying to give my best every time I go out there and I see those guys that are veterans going out there and giving their 100 percent, and that's what I try to do every time."

Tweet from @RGriffinStar: This stat courtesy of Frederic Daigle of La Presse Canadienne. Vlad Guerrero Jr. has become the first Quebec-born player to hit a walk-off home run at Olympic Stadium #BlueJays #Expos

And he's certainly made an impression on Gibbons.

"I don't think he's just a slugger, he's a pretty good hitter," Gibbons said. "He goes up there, he's got an idea. ... I haven't seen him a lot but just from the limited times, he's got an idea at the plate. And just like his dad, he'll take just a nice cheap single the other way to drive in a run. I think he's got a little more discipline than his dad had. His dad would hit anything you threw up there.

"But certain guys just stand out that you see over the years. Not many of them like that, but it's just something different about him. Physically, he's a strong kid so you know he'll hit some home runs. But he's really advanced for his age, a lot like Bo Bichette is, so the future bodes well for this organization."

Video: STL@TOR: Guerrero Jr. walks it off with booming homer

Guerrero will be joined in New Hampshire by Bichette, the son of Dante Bichette, who played 13 years in the Majors, mostly with the Rockies. Bichette, a middle infielder, is the Blue Jays' No. 2 prospect and is No. 13 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100.

"I don't think we see eye to eye on everything, but that's the way baseball is," Bichette said earlier this spring. "People have their different approaches and their different swings. I think the one thing we do agree on is swing as hard as you can every single time. That's something we agree on, because if you're not using what God gave you, you're not going to be as good as you can be."

Sean Farrell is a contributor to MLB.com.

Toronto Blue Jays, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.