Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has listened to Toronto Blue Jays fans — and his family — and is returning to Major League Baseball’s home-run derby.
Guerrero will compete in the slugging exhibition on July 10 at T-Mobile Park in Seattle. It will be Guerrero’s second time competing in the event after he set a record with 91 home runs as a rookie in 2019.
“My family, they’ve been asking me for the last two years to participate,” said Guerrero after taking batting practice at Toronto’s Rogers Centre on Thursday. “They asked me again this year and I said ‘O.K., if you guys want me to go, I’ll be there this year.”
Guerrero ultimately lost 23-22 to New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso in the derby final, however. Seattle Mariners star Julio Rodriguez is the only other confirmed participant in the event so far.
The 24-year-old Blue Jays first baseman said he’s not worried about strategy or who he might face in the three-round, single-elimination tournament.
“No plan at all,” said Guerrero through translator Hector Lebron. “I’m just going to go in there and hit home runs, man.
“Just enjoy and then just hit homers.”
John Schneider, then the Blue Jays’ catching coach, pitched to Guerrero at the 2019 derby. Now promoted a few times up to Toronto’s manager, Schneider has again agreed to throw to Guerrero.
“I’ve been recruited. I’ll be making the trip. Try not to mess it up,” said Schneider, joking that if Guerrero wins the prize money he hopes for a generous tip. “He asked me a couple days ago, so it’s pretty cool.
“That’s probably the most fun I’ve had on a field, just watching balls fly.”
Guerrero is off to a slow start this season with 11 home runs in 78 games. In 2021, he tied for the league lead with 48 home runs, following that up with 32 last year.
Schneider said that entering the home-run derby may kick-start Guerrero’s power game.
“I think it’s just cool for him to be in that environment with the best players in the world,” said Schneider. “It kind of reminds you of how talented and good you are when you’re in that atmosphere, whether it’s the game or the derby or both.”
Guerrero agreed with Schneider that the derby could help him find his home-run stroke when the regular season resumes.
“I always pick one or two rounds in batting practice to hit homers every day,” said Guerrero. “So yeah, I will say yes, it will help me a lot.”