Vlad Jr. inspired by dad while forging own path

Guerrero Sr. throws out ceremonial first pitch before Blue Jays' game at Angel Stadium

April 8th, 2023

ANAHEIM -- As much as wants to emulate all that made his Hall of Fame father a success, his practical side knows that some things just are not sustainable.

The elder Guerrero swung at inside pitches, reached for outside pitches and offered at eye-level pitches in a career mostly spent with the Expos and Angels. He even hit pitches that bounced.

“A little cricket,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said Friday before Toronto’s 4-3 win at Angel Stadium.

Said Guerrero Jr. through an interpreter: “I mean, everybody's different, of course. But God gave my dad that talent, I guess. I always strive to be like my dad, but there's some things [about him] that are gonna be hard [for me] to be like.”

Guerrero Sr. was the topic of conversation before he threw out the ceremonial first pitch as the Angels played their home opener. There was an American flag nearly the size of the outfield. Both teams were on the foul lines and Guerrero Sr., wearing an Angels jersey, threw to Mike Trout. When Guerrero Jr. joined them near home plate, it made a trio of No. 27s in formation that was more impressive than the fighter jets that roared overhead.

Yet more and more, Guerrero Jr. is trying to break away from family tradition.

“I’ve been working very hard on that, [through] the entire Spring Training, on pitch selection,” Guerrero Jr. said. “Right now, everything is going well and I feel pretty good about it. Thank God.”

The younger Guerrero entered Friday with a .407 batting average, a 1.167 OPS, two home runs and six RBIs over his first seven games. He had one strikeout and five walks in 34 plate appearances.

“I think Vladdy right now, his overall game plan approach [and] the way he's approaching everything, is a little different than has been in years past,” Schneider said. “So you know, we’re looking for him to kind of keep doing what he’s doing.”

Growing up the son of a legendary Angels player meant the younger Guerrero spent countless hours on the Angel Stadium field, in the stands and exploring the locker room.

“It feels like I never left since I was a kid,” he said.

But playing in the ballpark just down the street from Disneyland has not always felt like the happiest place on Earth. In 10 Major League games here before Friday, he had a .121 batting average, .499 OPS and one home run in 33 at-bats.

It is a small sample size to be sure, with Schneider referencing earlier matchups in California that were billed as the battle of new MLB stars in the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani and Guerrero Jr.

And the younger Guerrero admits he might have gotten caught up in the hype.

“That happened in 2019, my first time here, when I came here to Angel Stadium,” he said. “Obviously, I felt a little bit anxious, but now I'm good. I just try and go up with my mission of trying to get a good pitch to hit and put pretty good contact on it.”

In that first trip to Anaheim, Guerrero played two games of a three-game series, going 0-for-6 with two walks and three strikeouts. They were the fourth and fifth games of his career. He had a home run and a double in four games at Angel Stadium last year.

In the first inning Friday, he hit a comebacker to Angels pitcher Patrick Sandoval, then singled to lead off the fourth inning before coming around to score Toronto’s first run. He also singled to lead off the sixth for his first multi-hit game at Angel Stadium.

It’s just one game, but it also reflects the growth Guerrero Jr. has experienced since those first games here as a rookie.

“I mean, every year is different, every year you learn,” Guerrero Jr. said. “Obviously, I'm more mature now than the previous year.

“Before, I probably see bases loaded and I’m trying to hit a grand slam. Now, I’m trying to stay calm, trying to look for a good pitch. If not, just take my walk. Like I say, every year is different, and I just feel more mature this year.”