by Alex Poletti
After a year of hype, the Toronto Blue Jays made a day of their top prospect’s debut, as they decided to retire Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s number 27 jersey before his first at-bat at the major league level on Friday.
To the surprise of the 20-year-old third baseman, the young Vlad was joined by his father, Hall of Famer Vlad Guerrero Sr., and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“We are very proud of the career Vlad has not yet had,” Trudeau said to the Toronto crowd. “His professional career thus far, all zero plate appearances, have made him a true Canadian hero.”
After hitting nearly .400 last season over double-A and triple-A ball, Guerrero received the only 80 hitting grade in scouting history. He is considered by some to be the greatest baseball prospect of all time. Certainly, his debut is among the most anticipated in sporting history.
Guerrero’s jersey is just the third to be retired in Blue Jays history, joining number 32, the late great Roy Halladay, and number 12, Roberto Alomar.
“I’m so honored to be considered among these great players,” the Dominican phenom said. “We all have done so much for this organization. Roberto was a key figure in bringing back-to-back rings to Toronto. And Roy Halladay and I have the same amount of championships with the Blue Jays.”
There was an added logistical challenge after the jersey was retired, however, as Guerrero was no longer allowed to wear the number.
“We couldn’t just let him walk out there wearing number 27,” Blue Jays President of Baseball Operations Mark Shapiro explains. “I mean, we just retired that number, it’s a bit insensitive for him to be wearing it.”
After a lengthy conversation, it was decided that Guerrero would be able to wear his retired jersey, the precedent being that some players, including the greatest closer of all time Mariano Rivera, wore 42 after it was retired throughout baseball because their jersey choice predated the decision.
In his first at-bat, Guerrero grounded out. On his walk back to the dugout, he received a standing ovation from the crowd.
“This is the most exciting performance Toronto has seen in years!” color commentator Buck Martinez said.
After recording one hit in Friday’s game, Guerrero has a career .250 batting average. He is expected to receive the key to the city next monday.