TORONTO – Vladimir Guerrero Jr. listens to Toronto Blue Jays fans and their families as he returns to Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby.
Guerrero will compete in the slugging exhibition at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park on July 10. It will be Guerrero’s second appearance since setting a rookie record of 91 home runs in 2019.
“My family has been asking me to join them for the last two years,” Guerrero said Thursday after batting practice at Toronto’s Rogers Center. “They asked me again this year, and I said, ‘Okay, if you guys want me to go, I’ll go there again this year.'”
However, Guerrero ultimately lost the Derby final to New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, 23–22. So far, the only other confirmed participant is Seattle Mariners star Julio Rodriguez.
The 24-year-old Blue Jays first baseman said he wasn’t worried about strategy or who he would face in a three-round, best-of-three tournament.
“We have absolutely no plans,” Guerrero said through translator Hector LeBron. “I’m going to go out there and hit a home run, dude.
“Have fun and just hit a home run.”
John Schneider, the Blue Jays’ catching coach at the time, pitched to Guerrero in the 2019 Derby. Now Schneider, who has been promoted several times to Toronto’s manager, has agreed to pitch Guerrero again.
“I got the job. I’m going on a trip. Don’t spoil it,” joked Schneider, who said he expects a generous tip if Guerrero wins the prize. “He asked me a few days ago and he’s very happy.
“Just watching the ball fly may be the most fun I’ve had on the field.”
Guerrero has hit 11 home runs in 78 games this season. He will tie for league-leading 48 home runs in 2021, following last year’s 32.
Schneider said his participation in the Home Run Derby may kick off Guerrero’s power game.
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“I think it’s really great for him to be in that environment with the best players in the world,” Schneider said. “Being in that atmosphere, whether it’s a match or a derby or both, reminds me how talented and good I am.”
Guerrero agreed with Schneider that Derby would help him find a home run strategy after the regular season resumes.
“I always pick one or two rounds in batting practice to hit a home run every day,” Guerrero said. “Yes, yes, I answer yes, it will help me a lot.”
The All-Star starting lineup was announced Thursday night, but the Blue Jays weren’t on the American League roster.
The full All-Star roster, including both teams’ pitchers and backups, will be released on Sunday, giving them another chance. Pitchers and reserves (23 total for both teams) are selected by player votes and selection by the Commissioner’s Office.
This report by the Canadian Press Agency was first published on June 29, 2023.
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