TORONTO | Wherever he goes, when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is asked where he's from, the Toronto Blue Jays slugger proudly replies: "from Montreal."
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Yet he only spent a few months a year there, during baseball season, before returning to his father's native Dominican Republic.
The latter then left Montreal for California when little Vlad was only four years old.
Under these circumstances, Guerrero Jr. obviously did not develop his talent in Quebec.
Despite everything, the one who is considered one of the best hitters in the world does not hesitate to define himself as a Montrealer.
Interviewed exclusively by Le Journal on Tuesday, a few hours before the second game against the Seattle Mariners, Guerrero spoke with affection of the city where he was born 23 years ago, when Vladimir Sr. Olympic Stadium in Expos uniform
A sweater in his name
Several members of his maternal family are still in the Quebec metropolis. Moreover, it is not uncommon to be asked when the star of the Jays will return to town.
Or... if it's possible to get a Toronto shirt embroidered with his name.
“When I talk to my family who lives in Montreal, I am told that several people wear a sweater in my name,” rejoices “Vladdy”, through Jays translator Hector Lebron.
A track he won't forget
The life of a professional athlete being thus made, Guerrero son explains that he has not set foot in Montreal for four years. But this date of March 27, 2018, he remembers it as if it were Wednesday.
He had just celebrated his 19th birthday and his official debut with the Blue Jays would not be made for a year.
But the Toronto squad had dressed him for the preseason game they were playing against the St. Louis Cardinals at Olympic Stadium.
The end of this game, however unimportant, remains firmly anchored in the memory of Montreal baseball fans. While the score was 0-0 at the end of the ninth inning, the young Vlad had propelled the throw of Jack Flaherty very far into the stands to give the victory to the Jays.
Vladimir Jr. hitting the long ball in the stadium that Vladimir Sr. had so often rocked. The loop was complete.
And though Guerrero may have hit 79 home runs in the major leagues since that March night – including 48 last year alone – that slap from beyond left field still remains etched in his memory.
" That will be great "
And with the Expos' return looking like it's been shelved — at least, for the foreseeable future — he says he's disappointed he won't be able to hit any more in Montreal anytime soon.
"It's a shame not to be able to play in Montreal," he regrets. If one day the team comes back, it will definitely be amazing for me. »
Abraham Toro owes some of his great versatility to his brother Douglas, himself a former top baseball player, who inspired him to become an ambidextrous hitter when the Seattle Mariners player was 15.
But the eldest Toro will not brag about it. “He did all the work afterwards! “he said, when met with other members of his family in the stands of the Rogers Center on Monday.
“I was ambidextrous myself, said the one who wore the uniform of the Capitals of Quebec for two seasons. Even sometimes I threw the ball from the left. When we were young, we played together, and Abraham had fun hitting both sides. Afterwards, he started doing it during matches. »
An appreciated quality
This quality is now rather useful in the Seattle infield.
Monday, in the first game of the series against Toronto, his manager, Scott Servais, used him as the first hitter against left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, with the goal that the Quebecer rushes from the right.
“Kikuchi is tough against lefties, so I decided to use Toro in an attacking role,” Servais explained at the time.
“I like Abraham Toro, added the manager. He does a lot of good things in the batting box. That it is ambidextrous gives us great flexibility. »
Unfortunately, Monday's experiment did not bear fruit. Toro did not hit a safe place in five at bats, before recovering the next day by going to first base as he entered the game in the eighth inning.
If we rely only on statistics, the 25-year-old Longueuillois is not having a great start to the season. In 110 at bats (before Wednesday's game), he was batting a low .164.
But these figures do not seem to bother his coach too much.
“He has good momentum these days. I know that's not what his stats say, but he never looks ridiculous," Servais pointed out ahead of the series opener.
“It will come, added his brother, who religiously follows the career of his younger brother. He does the job defensively and he already has four homers. I think he's going to have a good season. »