The Guerrero behind St. Marys bound Vladimir Guerrero
By Danny Gallagher
Canadian Baseball Network
Jesse Guerrero knows all about Vladimir Guerrero's nuances and idiosyncrasies.
Jesse is not related to the retired superstar and Expos' icon being inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday, but he knows him inside out, about as good as Vladimir's 14 brothers and sisters.
Jesse is the point man, the go-to person and interpreter for Vladimir, looking after his personal appearances, endorsements and marketing. Jesse likewise does the same for Vladimir Jr.
Jesse has been involved with the Guerrero family for close to 22 years after being introduced to Vladimir by the player's older brother Wilton at the Dodgers' spring-training site in Vero Beach, Fla.
"Believe me, I call Vladimir with a plan and he will yell and scream and hang up the phone and then he will call back a few minutes later and say, 'What can we do?' '' Jesse was telling me.
An interview with the agent gives one a rare glimpse into the life of the player, who is rarely interviewed in English because he rarely speaks English and because he speaks mostly Spanish.
The baseball player owns no less than 15 homes in the Dominican Republic, including one in the agricultural town of Don Gregorio, where he was born and raised and lives 10 months of the year. He also owns homes in Miami, Long Island, N.Y. and Anaheim, Calif.
Another nugget: Vladimir and his son of the same name are being featured in a Sportsnet documentary to air in March 2018.
A week before Guerrero's induction into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., Jesse arranged for Vladimir Sr. and Jr. to hook up in Lansing, Mich. where the hotshot sibling plays for the Blue Jays' class-A Lugnuts. The father and son talk to each other every day but they had not seen each other for about 10 months and Junior was aching to see his dad so Jesse worked out a surprise meeting. Jesse hid Vlad Sr. in a motel room for two days so his son wouldn't know. They were supposed to meet June 17 but the Lugnuts' game was rained out so they met June 18. What a closely guarded secret it was.
"It was stressful,'' Jesse said about trying to keep the affair hush-hush.
As for the elder Guerrero's upcoming trek to St. Marys, Jesse figures there will be a small party of six accompanying Vladimir to the induction week events: Vladimir's girlfriend Roxanne Rodriguez, his oldest daughter Vlaimi, Jesse and his wife Alejandra and two of Vladimir's brothers, Julio and Eleazar..
So far, Wilton, who played with Vladimir in Montreal for three seasons, is not scheduled to attend. He heads the Guerrero Baseball Academy in Don Gregorio where he also resides. Likewise, Vlad Jr. will not be able to attend because he will be playing for the Lugnuts.
Also being inducted are Jays' legend Roy Halladay, former Baseball Canada president Ray Carter, the late B.C. umpire Doug Hudlin and the 2015 Team Canada squad that won Pan-Am gold. The week gets kicked off on June 22 with the Opening Pitch cocktailer in Toronto at the Miller Thomson law offices.
"Everything is going good for induction week,'' Jesse said. "The hardest thing is the induction speech. We're making notes and asking questions that might arise. Vladimir will speak as much as possible in English. If need be, we will have to translate for him.
"The issue, the problem, is that Vlad is quiet and humble. He understands and speaks English but he worries that the wrong word in a conversation or sentence might turn out in the wrong context. Believe me, when he was playing for the Expos, Montreal asked him to attend an English class three or four times a weeks,'' Jesse recalled. "They would want him to go to classes Monday to Friday and then he would play Saturday and Sunday.''
Jesse was just joking about Guerrero only playing two days a week but it was just an emphasis on how Expos' management approached the matter.
"Did you sign me to play baseball or learn English?'' Vladimir asked the Expos.
"It's your decision,'' he was told.
So he stuck with baseball. How he got started with the Expos back in 1994 was comical.
"A friend of Vladimir's, Victor Franco, took him to an Expos' tryout,'' Jesse said. "In fact, he had gone to the Dodgers' tryout and they said he was too slow. Apparently, they saw him and they said they had no interest. He showed up with two right-footed cleats and Vlad was under the weather. He was sick.''
Despite being sick that day, he went on to a fabulous career, good enough for St. Marys and pretty soon, he will be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. He fell short of Cooperstown by some 15 votes this past January, gaining 71.7%, just shy of the 75% needed.
"We were waiting for a call about getting elected into Cooperstown,'' Jesse recalled. "6 p.m. came, then 6:15, 6:40, 6:50. They had to recount the ballots several times because they wanted to make sure. Vladimir and Trevor Hoffman were so close. The majority of the writers had Vladimir on their ballot and some only voted for four players and not 10 and some left him off their ballot.''