In some sports, the choice for Sporting News’ Faces of 2019 series was easier than others.
For baseball, the only real option was Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Not only is the potential superstar baseball’s best prospect on the cusp of making the majors with the Toronto Blue Jays, but his adorable 3-year-old face left an indelible mark on the baseball field in 2002, when his Hall of Fame-bound father was a star for the Montreal Expos.
Who can forget tiny Vlad Jr., doffing his cap to the adoring crowd at Olympic Stadium? If you haven’t seen the pictures, take a look now.
The younger Vlad was back in Montreal last spring, this time as a player, drawing an unforgettable standing ovation. The Blue Jays were playing the Cardinals at Olympic Stadium in the final exhibition game of the spring, and the game rolled into the ninth inning, tied at 1-1. Junior sent everyone home with a no-doubt home run just to the left of center field.
He had just turned 19 years old less than two weeks earlier.
Blue Jays fans were ready to see Guerrero in the majors immediately, but the parent club spent the 2018 season preaching patience, even though Guerrero spent the summer proving that probably wasn’t necessary. In 61 games playing for Toronto’s Double-A team, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Guerrero hit .402 — not a typo — with a 1.120 OPS, 14 homers, 60 RBIs, 21 walks and only 27 strikeouts.