Vladimir Guerrero was born to be in Baseball Hall of Fame, former coach says
Former Expos star will be inducted into Cooperstown on Sunday
When Baseball's Hall Of Fame comes calling for Vladimir Guerrero on Sunday, his good friend Dino Ebel will be rooting for him from some 4,400 kilometres away.
Ebel, the Los Angeles Angels third base coach, will be hard at work, but he'll have "Vlad" in his thoughts.
"Vladimir is one of the greatest, nicest human beings I've ever met ... a guy who came to the park everyday with a smile on his face, every day, competing and wanting to win," Ebel said in an interview with The Canadian Press earlier this year.
"This guy was born to be in the Hall of Fame in my eyes, there's no doubt about it."
When Ebel joined the Angels' big league staff in 2006, his tasks included throwing batting practice to a group that included Guerrero, Garrett Anderson, Bengie Molina and Orlando Cabrera.
It was that familiarity that led to Guerrero asking Ebel to join him for the Home Run Derby in 2007 at AT&T Park in San Francisco — a contest that the free-swinging Guerrero won with Ebel throwing the pitches.
"Actually, Vlad did a great job by taking pitches, took his time, got a pitch he knew that he could drive out of the park," Ebel said. "That was the game plan going in: not to swing at everything I threw up there."
Which isn't the Guerrero fans came to know over 16 seasons in four cities, including several memorable ones in Montreal playing outfield for the Expos.
"He probably took more pitches in the 2007 Home Run Derby than he did in his entire career," Ebel joked.
Ebel, who worked in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system prior to joining the Angels, admitted he didn't see much of Guerrero's early days in Montreal, but it was hard to avoid the chatter from scouts as the star worked his way to the big leagues.
"We heard all about this guy coming up through the minor leagues, how special this player was going to be," Ebel said. "He had all the tools: big and strong, power, great arm, can run ... you knew you had something special there."
The long-time Angels coach was also afforded a front row seat for the next generation of Guerrero baseball talent — young son Vladimir Jr. used to be a fixture at the ballpark.
The younger Guerrero is currently a top prospect in the Blue Jays system and the next up in the rich baseball bloodline.
"Watching his younger son when he was at Anaheim and just being on the field, you knew there was something special there too, he had all the tools just like his dad," Ebel said.