Fans trickled in early to take in batting practice at Coca-Cola Field while stadium workers neatly folded No. 27 Bisons T-shirts outside the gift shops nearby.
Buffalo was getting ready for the Vladdy show.
But Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the top prospect in Major League Baseball, has been proving for a while that he’s ready for Buffalo.
The star third baseman was set to make his triple-A debut Tuesday, batting third in manager Bobby Meacham’s lineup, after dominating double-A over 61 games.
Now a step closer to the major leagues, Guerrero looked calm, cool and collected before the game in spite of the massive attention surrounding his promotion.
‘I don’t feel any pressure’
“I don’t feel any pressure,” Guerrero told a throng of media members through a translator. “I just try to get better every day.
“I just try to do my job, to do the things that I need to do every day in order to get better.”
Guerrero put up ridiculous numbers for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats — batting .402 with 14 homers and 60 RBIs — even after missing a month of the season with a knee injury.
The 19-year-old, his chin-length dreadlocks tucked into a baby blue Bisons cap, said he wasn’t surprised by those stats.
“That’s what I work every year for,” Guerrero said. “When I go to the Dominican Republic (in the off-season), I just go to prepare myself for a long season. And that’s what I work for to prepare myself to hit and to do my job.”
Guerrero signed a $3.9 million US deal with the Blue Jays as an international free agent in 2015 — when he was just 16 years old.
He’s garnered increasing attention since then, with MLB Pipeline ranking him the top prospect in the minor leagues.
As the son of Hall of Famer and former Montreal Expos great Vladimir Guerrero, the younger Guerrero has seen the work ethic required of a major leaguer. He said that was the greatest lesson he’d learned from his father.
“To keep working hard and to keep doing what I’ve been doing so far, just to keep doing it,” Guerrero said.
Meacham, who’d only seen Guerrero play live twice before Tuesday (both were at spring training), called Guerrero’s attitude “impressive.”
And the manager isn’t worried about all the hype surrounding his newest star.
“I like to say if you’re confident in your abilities and you believe in yourself and you know deep down that you should be here, [the hype] is just going to come with it,” he said. “I think he expected this to come with it, he knows what his dad went through, he’s seen big league situations all through his life and this is just part of what he has to go through right now.
“And all the attention, he’s earned it.”
Grandmother there for support
Moving to Buffalo with Guerrero was his grandmother, Altagracia, who had lived with Guerrero Sr. when he was a young star in Montreal.
Altagracia also stayed with Guerrero Jr. through his double-A days in New Hampshire.
“If I move to China, she comes with me to China,” Guerrero quipped, drawing laughter from reporters.
Altagracia cooks for her grandson, creating the Dominican dishes of his childhood, and does his laundry — “she doesn’t allow me to do it,” Guerrero said with a grin — but she also provides much-needed advice when called for.
“She’s there to support me,” said Guerrero, who added that Altagracia is a tougher critic than his father. “And every game after the game we sit down and we talk about the game.”
Meacham said he doesn’t mind having Altagracia around, especially if it helps Guerrero feel comfortable in his new surroundings.
“What we try to do is make sure everybody in our organization gets what’s necessary to be better everyday and if that’s what’s necessary for his situation, a 19-year-old with all this attention, I’m sure his grandmother and whoever else is here is going to help him to make that next step,” he said.
“Right now his grandmother is a big help to him and as long as she’s a big help she’s very welcome.”