Vlad tops Dominican players' hit list on single

Vlad tops Dominican players' hit list on single

Vlad tops Dominican players' hit list on single
BALTIMORE -- The "Vlad hit watch" -- the sign the Orioles anxiously posted in visiting clubhouses on their recently wrapped road trip -- ended the way most of the team had secretly hoped: at their own home field.

Vladimir Guerrero's sixth-inning single off Red Sox starter Josh Beckett on Monday gave the designated hitter sole possession of baseball's all-time hits by a Dominican-born player, surpassing Julio Franco's 2,586.

"Everybody's so proud of him," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter after the 6-3 win. "You feel so blessed to get to have a guy around you who just loves to play baseball. He's a manager's delight, because you know he's going to be there. He'll do as well as he can do."

Guerrero said breaking the record was something that's special to him.

"I've played a lot of years, 16 years, so it felt very good, very satisfying to get [it]," Guerrero said through an interpreter. "It's a big thrill. I'm happy I did it here."

Others who know Guerrero said they were very proud he was able to set the record.

"No one is going to be close to that," Indians manager Manny Acta said of Guerrero's mark, which he will add to if he plays next season as intended. "It's a very good distinction when you consider how many of our countrymen have played in the big leagues."

Acta, who was the third-base coach for the Montreal Expos from 2002-04, remembers watching a young Guerrero play the outfield and was impressed with his ability to handle the team's artificial turf.

"I'm sure that [record] means a lot to him," Acta said. "He's a guy that everything he does is to try to make everybody back home proud of him. Everything he's done is on God-given talent. He's never had any type of issues off the field. He's a natural."

"He hits everything," said the Cubs' Alfonso Soriano, who entered Monday with 1,748 hits. "He can hit any kind of pitch -- down, low, inside, away. I think that's why he's got [more than] 2,500 hits and he's a future Hall of Famer in the Dominican."

While Guerrero isn't one to attract attention to himself, despite being a potential Hall of Famer and boasting one of baseball's most impressive pedigrees, his teammates have had no problem trumpeting their designated hitter's achievements. In addition to the countdown sign, Guerrero's teammates have been hoping every borderline single gets scored a hit instead of an error, and Showalter has highlighted the looming record in several pregame news conferences.

"We are trying to give the honor it's due," Showalter said. "I think our guys realize how lucky they are to be around to see it. When you think about some of the guys he's passed on the all-time hit record period -- I think Manny [Ramirez is] behind him, and I just think about how proud I know [former Expos manager] Felipe [Alou] is of him. I remember seeing him for the first time in Montreal and going, 'I think it's time to change leagues.'"

The Orioles said they will have a ceremony honoring Guerrero before Wednesday's game, and Alou is going to be there.

"He would hit these balls that, a pitcher would make a good pitch, but you just got no chance with Vlady," Tigers infielder Ramon Santiago said. "One time, I saw [former Major Leaguer] Jamie Moyer throw a ball that bounced and he still hit a homer. So I'm not surprised to hear about Vlady [passing Franco]."

Even more impressive about Guerrero's accomplishment is how quickly he got there. While it took Franco 8,677 at-bats to reach 2,586, Guerrero tied the mark on his 8,135th with a first-inning single Saturday night off Detroit's Justin Verlander. Franco also played in 2,527 games to Guerrero's 2,143. Guerrero set the new record two games later in contest No. 2,145.

"It's a big accomplishment, because we've had so many great players come out of the DR," Red Sox slugger David Ortiz said. "To watch Vladdy being able to do that and have a wonderful career, he's just a great guy. There's not a better person who could get that record than Vladdy."

"I love Vlad," said Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, who was teammates with Guerrero last season in Texas. "He's a great player and a great hitter, one of the best ever. I loved playing with him and learned a lot from him. He is definitely something special."

Guerrero's humility and calming veteran presence has helped countless young players, including Angels shortstop Erick Aybar, who uses the lessons he learned from Guerrero --who he calls his mentor -- to help him get through tough stretches.

"He'd tell me to relax and just play, that I was good enough and I just needed to trust my talent," Aybar said of Guerrero. "He's a great player and a great teammate, one of the best. I feel lucky that I was able to play with him. He's a legend. I'm really happy to see him get the records and things he deserves."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.