Is that a lightsaber? Vlad Jr. slugs away in Vitilla

The ultimate test of hand-eye coordination

April 1st, 2020

TORONTO -- How does a young slugger stay sharp without live pitching this spring? is getting back to his roots, playing a classic game that has shaped so many Latin stars.

Vitilla, a variation of stickball played primarily in the Dominican Republic, is part of the foundation of the country’s love of baseball. It’s played by everyone from young kids to Dominicans living abroad, and it’s a tradition that many Major League players have shared with teammates or young ballplayers in their own cities.

That’s not a red lightsaber in Guerrero’s hands, either; it’s a broomstick. Without an enlarged barrel like a standard baseball bat would have, it’s the ultimate test of hand-eye coordination, with the bottle cap -- typically taken from large water jugs -- zipping in with unpredictable movement.

It brings to mind the famous philosophy of Patches O’Houlihan from the 2004 movie “DodgeBall,” “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.’

Well, if you can hit a bottle cap, you can hit a baseball.

In most ways, the structure of Vitilla mirrors that of baseball. The scoring works differently, of course, with fielders needing to catch the cap in the air or while it’s still moving on the ground to record an out. If the cap is hit into the field and stops on the ground, that’s a base hit.

Guerrero earned praise from manager Charlie Montoyo and several others in the organization this spring for coming in with an improved fitness routine. Still just 21 years old, he has made that a focus after realizing that he lost steam down the stretch of his first Major League season last year.