Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is only 22 years old, but already well versed in fulfilling destinies.
Now it is Guerrero, and not his Hall of Fame father, who dominates the American League, as many imagined when Vladito was just a kid in oversized shorts following his father down the ballyard.
And after a first half in which he hit 28 home runs and led the major leagues in hitting and OPS, leading him to his first All-Star Game, he made a promise to his Blue Jays teammates Lourdes Gurriel and George Springer: home with the game’s MVP trophy.
After launching a 468-foot pitch through the Colorado air and leading the American League to a 5-2 victory over the National League, it’s worth noting what this 6-2, 250 barrel of power and joy pounds could aim to achieve.
“Dreams come true,” Guerrero said, the game’s MVP trophy riding shotgun on the postgame podium. “Since I was a kid I’ve always been thinking about this moment.
“I’ve worked all my life, very hard, and thank God it’s happening now.”
Major League Baseball might say the same about Guerrero, Shohei Ohtani and a gaggle of other players who have provided a balm for the game after a pandemic-wracked 2020 and a transitional period in the game that has industry leaders and fans seemingly on perpetual alert.
On this night, the most important stars shone brightest.
Ohtani made history, earning the victory with a flawless first inning of work and grounding out twice, fulfilling his own superlative as the first player in baseball history to earn All-Star selections as a hitter and pitcher. Guerrero nearly beheaded, then hugged, a surefire Hall of Famer.
Along with a pitching staff that allowed just eight hits, that was more than enough for the AL to register its eighth consecutive All-Star triumph over the NL and 15th in the last 18 games.
While the stage was set for two-way legend Ohtani, it was Guerrero who captured the buzz.
At 22 years and 119 days, Guerrero became the youngest to be named MVP of the All-Star Game. Ken Griffey Jr. was 22 years and 236 days old when he won the award in 1992.
After Ohtani led off the game with a groundout, Guerrero, the Toronto Blue Jays’ slugger whose 28 first-half homers were second to Ohtani’s 33, unloaded on a pitch from Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer.
It was 111.1 mph off the bat, and just inches from Scherzer’s head. In the regular season, the sequence might have inspired Mad Max to stomp a couple laps around the man.
In this exhibition, he accepted Guerrero’s loving embrace on his way back to the dugout.
“I’m alive,” Scherzer, famously heterochromiatic, said after his scoreless inning. “That’s the success story. I’m just grateful I still have a blue eye and a brown eye.”
Said Guerrero: “At the Home Run Derby, he was joking with and said, hey, take it easy on me tomorrow. After the line drive, I just wanted to give him a hug.”
Guerrero’s average exit velocity of 95.2 mph ranks second in the majors and nobody’s hit more than the 45 balls of at least 110 mph he struck in the first half.
His first rocket nearly damaged Scherzer; his second just did damage to the NL.
Guerrero blasted a Corbin Burnes pitch 468 feet to left field in the third inning, giving the AL a 2-0 lead, sending a murmur through the Coors Field crowd and inspiring a drive-by exchange with Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., his fellow second-generation superstar.
He’d later drive in Blue Jays teammate Teoscar Hernandez with an RBI groundout, while Tampa Bay Rays catcher Mike Zunino clobbered a home run off Mets right-hander Taijuan Walker.
Angels outfielder Jared Walsh – playing left field for the first time as a major leaguer – ended the last serious threat, making a nifty sliding catch of a sinking Kris Bryant line drive to bail Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes out of a bases-loaded situation in the eighth.