Batting DH

Batting DH
Vladimir Guerrero
Photograph by Darren Braun

NAME: Vladimir Guerrero | AGE: 35 | HOMETOWN: Don Gregorio Nizao de Bani, Dominican Republic | QUALIFICATIONS: Starter for the 2010 All-Star Game, his ninth career selection / Major league leader in RBIs / 2004 American League MVP / Number 42 on the career home run list, with 425 at press time

This is my first year with the Texas Rangers, and it’s my first to bat DH after fourteen seasons starting in the outfield. But I prepare myself the same way each game. Nothing changes, even though I’m not in the field every inning.

I’m always watching the pitcher when I’m on deck to see what he’s doing and how he’s throwing. But when I’m at bat, it’s all about the moment. Focus, focus, focus.I’m waiting for the one pitch I want.

If you go 0 for 4, you just have to be ready for the next at bat. It’s a long season. You can’t get down on yourself. A streak can start with the next pitch.

What’s the one thing a young batter should always do? Keep his eye on the ball. It sounds simple, but it’s not.

I don’t ever give a thought to where I am in the count. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s 0-2 or 2-0. It doesn’t matter to me if runners are on base. I’m thinking about the pitch I want to hit. I never change my mind when I’m at the plate.

I’ve gained a reputation in the major leagues for being a great bad-ball hitter—hitting balls that are outside the strike zone. When I was growing up in the Dominican Republic, I used to play a game called la placa. You have a home made base in front of you, something like a license plate, and when the pitcher throws a sock ball, if it hits the plate—the placa—you lose your turn. That’s how I learned to dig those balls out. It taught me to come out swinging.

I don’t think there’s a pitch I cannot hit. I’m always thinking that I’m going to get a hit. And when I connect with the ball I want, I know it’s going out.

I never looked forward to facing Al Leiter [the two-time All-Star who pitched for four teams from 1987 to 2005]. He was a tough inside pitcher. I could hit him, but it was always line drives. I had a hard time finding the open field.

I used batting gloves once when I was younger, but I never liked them. I couldn’t feel the bat, and I was never comfortable. Same thing with pine tar. Since then I’ve just used white tape around my fingertips, and that’s all I need.

There are lots of young players out there who have talent. There aren’t enough who have the perseverance to practice hard enough. That’s the difference between making it or not.

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