Vladimir Guerrero Jr. put on a historic show at the home run derby on Monday night, but some of the credit should also go to John Schneider, his pitcher.
If you tuned into the home run derby on Monday night then you witnessed an absolute treat regardless of who you were rooting for. For Blue Jays fans, it was a whole other level of excitement.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. set a new record for a single round by hitting 29 home runs in the first round to beat Matt Chapman, and had to go to two rounds of a “3-swing, swing-off” against Joc Pederson, when they both hit 29 in the second round as well. After they each hit eight more in the extra minute, they moved on to those two rounds of three swings a piece, where Vlad Jr. eventually emerged from the round to go to the finals.
In the final round Guerrero Jr. understandably looked a little bit gassed after his historic performance, but he still managed to his 22 bombs before his round was over. It only looked like a disappointment because of the ridiculous numbers he posted in the first two rounds.
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There’s no doubt that we should all tip our hats to the 20-year-old phenom, as he silenced any critics that felt he shouldn’t be there (I’ll admit that I questioned it as well). And by no means am I taking anything away from the power display that he put on, but I think we also have to give credit where credit is due.
Vlad Jr. likely doesn’t make it to the finals of that contest without his batting practice pitcher, John Schneider.
Former Blue Jay Kevin Pillar was quick to point that out on social media before the whole thing was even over. Schneider was the coach of the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats in 2018, where Vlad Jr. spent a good chunk of his time last year. He’s now a major league coach on Charlie Montoyo‘s staff, and is clearly well-liked by the players.
When it comes to the derby, Schneider provided an advantage that was evident, especially when you watched Vlad Jr’s counterpart in the finals, Pete Alonso. Alonso put on an impressive display of his own, but it was particularly impressive in the first two rounds when he didn’t get nearly as many good pitches to hit as some of his competitors. The human element is always going to be at play in an event like this (as long as they use human pitchers), but it’s also an opportunity for these guys to bring their own guy. For Alonso, that was his cousin, who really stepped up in the finals and made a big difference in ultimately winning the whole thing.
Vlad Jr. went with Schneider, who he was not only familiar with, but who also has plenty of experience throwing batting practice. While Vlad Jr. came up just short of winning the whole thing, Schneider did everything he could to help him get there, unless you could want to make the argument that he shouldn’t have been so good in the first round.
For his second place finish Vlad Jr. won a $500,000 dollars. Here’s hoping he buys his coach a nice little present to thank him for his contribution.