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Hype aside, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. remains focused on what's in his control

The 19-year-old stood in front of the media mob, looking comfortable in an uncomfortable situation. No one likes to stand around a media scrum, a thorny push of people and cameras and cellphones turned into audio recorders, all asking questions at the same time.

But this is part of the gig. It's part of being a professional baseball player. And when you're the No. 1 ranked prospect in all of minor league baseball with a dad who was just inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and Pedro Martinez is your godfather, well, you're born into the baseball life already knowing the drill.

Being comfortable in an uncomfortable situation is part of what turns talented baseball players into baseball greats.

And Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has the makings of a baseball great.

Just, not yet.

At least not according to him.

You see, at the age of 19, Guerrero Jr. already knows that much of his baseball future is out of his control. Speaking through an interpreter (Blue Jays mental performance coach Rafael Dubois, a native of Venezuela, translated questions and answers between Spanish and English), the native of the Dominican Republic repeatedly used a version of the phrase "control what I can control" while answering questions hours before his Triple-A debut with the Buffalo Bisons at Coca-Cola Field.

His progression through the Blue Jays system and his eventual call-up to the Major Leagues, all that is out of his control.

So he does what he loves most – goes out and plays baseball, with a smile on his face.

"I don’t feel any pressure," Guerrero said. "I just try to get better every day. I try to do my job. To do the things I need to do every day to get better. And I don’t really feel any pressure."

But Blue Jays fans already want to see him in Toronto. What's his best-case scenario?

"Like I said, I can’t think in the future," Guerrero said. "I think in the moment and I just need to focus on doing my job and doing the things I need to do here."

But would he like to be in Toronto by the end of the season?

"Like I said, I do whatever I can control," Guerrero said. "If I’m here I’m going to do my job here. If I’m up there, I’m going to do my job up there."

There is no bravado but there are expectations. Guerrero Jr. was not surprised by his ridiculous success at the Double-A level this season. In 61 games with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, he hit an astonishing .402, collecting 94 hits with 14 homers while driving in 60 runs.

The kid can flat out crush the ball.

But the numbers? That's just matching up to what seems to be Guerrero's life philosophy: Work hard. Always.

"That’s what I work every year for," Guerrero Jr. said when asked about his success at Double-A. "When I go to the DR (Dominican Republic) 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.

"That’s what I work for and I’m not surprised about that."

The results come from a work ethic that keeps him hungry. It's a lesson he learned from his father, Vladimir Guerrero Sr., who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown on Sunday, his son proudly in attendance. He learned it as well from Martinez, another Dominican Republic native and Hall of Fame member.

"We talk about a lot of things but one of the main things is to keep working and to just go out there and do my job," Guerrero Jr. said about what advice he has received from Martinez.

From his dad the advice is "to keep working hard and to keep doing what I've been doing so far."

But his toughest critic remains his grandmother. Altagracia Guerrero knows the baseball life. And after raising a Hall of Fame son, she's become one of the grounding forces in her grandson's life. She lived with him in New Hampshire and is living with him in Buffalo.

"Of course," Guerrero Jr. said when asked if Altagracia came with him to Buffalo. "If I move to China, she comes with me to China.

"If I need advice, any advice, I can always get it from her. She’s there to support me and every time, every game, after the game, we sit down and talk about the game."

Having grandma in tow is just fine with Bisons manger Bobby Meacham, who has consistently built his managing style around putting players in positions to succeed. And if Vlad needs her around to help with meals, laundry, and postgame postmortem sessions, well that works just fine.

"What we try to do is make sure everybody in our organization gets what's necessary for their career to be better every day," Meacham said. "And if that's a necessary situation – a 19-year old getting all this attention, I'm sure his grandmother and whoever else is here is going to help him to make that next step. Obviously he's going to transition to more and more things as he plays better and better.

"I've talked to him about certain things ... the next thing is starting to understand what he needs, not us tell him what he needs," Meacham said. "That's the next transition from my standpoint, to help him understand what he needs. We've already helped him get a routine started. Right now his grandma is a big help to him and as long as she's a big help, she's very welcome."

His dad would not be in Buffalo to watch his son make his Triple-A debut Tuesday night with Guerrero Jr. starting at third base and hitting third in the lineup.

Guerrero Jr. officially went 0-1 in his five plate appearances, drawing three walks, a sacrifice fly to left field, and a ground out to second base.

"He showed a lot tonight," Meacham said after the game. "Almost glad he didn't get a hit because there's more to being a big-league ball player, there's more to being a really good ball player than hits. We saw a lot of really good things. We saw good things on defense with footwork, good footwork on pitches that weren't even hit to him. We saw good awareness on a lot of different things and oh yeah, he was patient at the plate, too."

Before the game, Meacham said that Guerrero Jr. would likely play just one game, likely the first, of the Bisons doubleheader against the IronPigs on Wednesday. Tuesday was Guerrero Jr.'s first game in three days, and the Herd follows their twinbill with a day game on Thursday (1:05 p.m.)

But this is baseball and things can change. Perhaps the only exception is the refrain from Guerrero Jr.:

"I just have to thank God for everything. I just need to be here. Control what I can control. Do my job and that’s about it."

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