Taking a Swing (and Hitting) Any Ball Within Reach of a Bat

If you say the name Vlad Guerrero, one image comes to mind: A ballplayer who will swing after any pitch and deposit it on the other side of whatever wall borders the outfield. This isn’t to say he was a free-swinging hitter with no sense control. Guerrero batted .318 with and has more than 2,500 hits to his credit. He simply had fantastic aim with a bat, no matter how far away from him the pitcher tried to throw. One of his 449 home runs is reported to have come from a ball that bounced off the dirt before meeting his bat.

Guerrero’s lack of a strike zone wasn’t the only unconventional aspect of his game. He was a speedy base stealer, falling one HR shy of the 40/40 club, but ultimately was thrown out in more than 1/3 of his attempts. His preparation for opposing pitchers was to swing away at them on a PlayStation before games. He would routinely beat runners with a throw to home from the warning tracks of Montreal and Anaheim, though his accuracy was a bit more random.

Even his childhood was different than most other players. Growing up poor in the Dominican Republic, he dropped out of school in 5th grade and worked on a farm. He’s certainly come a long way and continues to make a mark on baseball. One of his sons, Vlad, Jr., has been given a much better start in life and is already crushing AL East pitching just like his dad.

Vlad missed the 40/40 club by just 1 HR in 2002.
No matter how many times I look at this card I keep thinking it is from 1995, the year he first appeared in the Bowman’s Best set.