Vlad Jr. Turned Into A Star At The Derby

John Minchillo/Associated Press

John Minchillo/Associated Press

Days after the gut-wrenching decision – one that is all too familiar for Toronto Raptors fans – of Kawhi Leonard taking his talents elsewhere, Vadimir Guerrero Jr. had the chance to up the mood for sports fans in the city. He did that and some.

On Monday night, Vlad Jr. became the youngest ever contestant in the MLB’s annual Home Run Derby. Jays fans and he had high expectations for the young stud and he delivered making history at the event.

In his very first round at the event, Vlad broke the record for most home runs hit in a single round with 29. That means he hit a home run just about every 10 seconds. The previous record was set at 28 in 2008 by Josh Hamilton. In the second round, Vladdy did anything but slow down as he launched yet another 29 jacks – setting a record for the most hit in the first two rounds. His competition stiffened a bit as Joc Pederson also managed to hit 29 big flies’ which sent the two into overtime which then led to a swing off. Vlad prevailed and his 69 home runs gave him the sole possession of the Home Run Derby home run record.

If you didn’t watch, you must be thinking he had to have won. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. He ended with 91 total home runs (most of them being moon shots) which were 34 more than the guy who ended up winning.

Obviously, the performance and the records are what will get the most attention. As they should. However, something more profound stood out to me while watching. It wasn’t the swing, it wasn’t the sound of the bat, it was the personality coming from a kid under some of the brightest lights in baseball.

To put it in perspective, he’s a year younger than I am. Currently, I’m a student at Ryerson University working as an intern at Sportsnet trying to figure out what the hell I want to do with the rest of my life. Right now, Vlad is living just about every kid's dreams and showing all of us he belongs right where he is.

It’s him performing with all the attention turned to him but it’s also the way he was interacting with the league’s best, it’s the raw emotion he showed, it’s the presence you feel when he’s doing something – even if you’re watching from your 15” Mac screen.

We all knew Vlad was going to be good – hell I even said Vlad was going to be one of the greatest. His play so far this season has yet to live up to the hype but rookies like him rarely do. His star power grew 10-fold in one night.

Toronto has seen its fair share of superstars across all leagues and sports in recent history. One thing Vlad surpasses most is as an entertainer with his personality and lively spirit.

I’ve already fallen in love with the kid and last night only made it deeper. We know he’s going to be fine but on Monday night, Vlad showed that he’s going to bloom into the superstar we all hoped for.