Vladimir Guerrero teaches Angels, teases a Cooperstown halo
Former Los Angeles Angels outfielder Vladimir Guerrero, second from left, talks with Angels infielder Johnny Giovatella during baseball spring training Friday, Feb. 26, 2016, in Tempe, Ariz. (Kevin Sullivan/The Orange County Register via AP)
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Although Vladimir Guerrero is eager to provide coaching and tips to the Los Angeles Angels' young prospects, the retired slugger realizes his particular set of skills is tough to teach.
The greatest bad-pitch hitter of his generation is enjoying the chance to try it as a guest instructor.
''I've told them to see the ball and swing hard,'' Guerrero said Saturday through a translator. ''I can't tell them to swing at bad pitches, because they're not going to hit it.''
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Guerrero has taken a break from retirement in the Dominican Republic to spend a week in camp with the Angels. After that, he's off to Dunedin, Florida, to see his son, 16-year-old Toronto prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Although he began his remarkable career in Montreal, where he is still a beloved figure, Guerrero has a fond connection to the Angels.
Guerrero will be on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time in December, and while he isn't a guaranteed first-ballot selection, he sounds eager to be the first player to wear the halo cap on his plaque if he gets the call. The Angels are the oldest major league franchise without representation on a Hall of Famer's Cooperstown likeness.
''Well, there's no longer a team in Montreal,'' Guerrero said. ''I think there's a possibility that it can be with the Angels.''
The 41-year-old Guerrero looks trimmer than he did when he left the Angels following the 2009 season, but his easygoing personality and ever-present smile haven't been lost.
Guerrero missed baseball for the first year after his retirement yet no longer feels that pull. He mostly spends time with his family at home in the Dominican Republic these days, though he plays third base every weekend on a softball team called Los Locos.
''I still don't have the time to be a (full-time) coach,'' he said.
Guerrero spent six of his 16 big league seasons with the Angels, hitting 173 of his 449 career homers, making four All-Star teams and winning the 2004 American League MVP award. After single seasons with Texas and Baltimore and a brief minor league stint with Toronto, he signed a one-day contract with the Angels and retired in May 2014.
''He was a great teammate,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ''Loved to play the game. Played it banged up, and what separated Vlad was he played at an extraordinary level when he was hurt, much like Albert (Pujols). Most players would have a tough time performing. These guys do it.''
Guerrero is intrigued by the current direction of the Angels, who made only a few strategic editions to a team that won 85 games and barely missed the playoffs last season. Los Angeles overhauled one side of its infield, landing third baseman Yunel Escobar and shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
''They've made good trades,'' Guerrero said. ''Escobar, I've never spent much time with him. He can be a good ballplayer. He just needs to let go of some of the craziness he has. The shortstop, I didn't really know him. We've spent some time together since I've been here.''