Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Among the Finalists for the MLB’s Hank Aaron Award

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is in the running for a coveted MLB award…

The 22-year-old Dominican-Canadian professional baseball player and designated hitter for the Toronto Blue Jays has been named a finalist for the Hank Aaron Award, the first since the legend’s death.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Guerrero is a finalist alongside Shohei Ohtani, Bryce HarperJuan Soto and Fernando Tatis Jr.

The winners of the award, which was established in 1999 by Major League Baseball to honor the best offensive player in each league, will be announced in November.

Ohtani, the favorite for American League MVP, is the first player who also pitches ever nominated. In addition to Ohtani and Guerrero, New York’s Aaron Judge, Baltimore’s Cedric Mullins, Oakland’s Matt Olson, Kansas City’s Salvador Perez and Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez are the American League nominees.

Joining Harper, Soto and Tatis in the National League are Cincinnati’s Nick Castellanos, San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford, Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman and St. Louis’ Paul Goldschmidt.

In a phone interview, Billye Aaron, who was married to Hank Aaron for 48 years, said her husband “was always very excited about the award itself and, of course, very excited about the World Series because, during that time, before every fourth game, he had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know and shake hands with the winners.”

The voting panel includes eight Hall of Fame players — including new voters Chipper Jones, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz — as well as a fan vote.

Aaron, MLB’s longtime home run king and one of the most beloved and respected players in the game’s history, died in his sleep in January.

“I’m still in a state of grief beyond measure,” Billye Aaron said. “I’m doing OK. I have some difficulty many days. But like everybody else, when you come to this stage in your life, you have to learn to cope with it. You can’t change it. You can’t do anything about God’s will. So you learn to accept it and learn to go on.

“I miss him so very, very much. I loved him so very, very much.”

Aaron, she said, would have been particularly excited for the NL Division Series that starts Friday between the two MLB teams for whom he played: the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers. Aaron played his first 12 years for the Milwaukee Braves before they moved to Atlanta, where he spent nine seasons. A two-year stint with the Brewers wrapped up his career.

“He loved Milwaukee. He loved the Milwaukee Braves. He loved the Milwaukee Brewers,” Billye Aaron said. “And he loved, of course, the Atlanta Braves. He probably would’ve had some difficulty not rooting for both teams. The team that is your bread and butter — you probably would fall into that category. And being on the staff as well. So he probably would have to pull for Atlanta. But I know he had a strong fondness for the Milwaukee team.”

MLB intended to honor Aaron in Atlanta at July’s All-Star Game. Blowback from Georgia’s new voting-rights laws, however, prompted MLB to shift the game to Denver’s Coors Field, where Freeman and Judge escorted Billye Aaron onto the field for the ceremony that celebrated her husband.

While MLB weathered criticism for the choice, Billye Aaron said “it was the right thing for Major League Baseball to do.”

“In light of the political situation going on then and continuing to go on now,” she said, “the decision to move the All-Star Game out of the city of Atlanta, in spite of the impact that it would have on Atlanta and on the businesses that were preparing for the great game — I still think Major League Baseball did exactly what it needed to do in recognizing that racism can overrule some things.”

Alcides Escobar Agrees to $1 Million Deal with Washington Nationals

Alcides Escobar has a million reasons to smile…

The 34-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball shortstop has agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract to stay with the Washington Nationals next season.

Alcides Escobar,

Escobar, who will turn 35 in December, batted .288 with 21 doubles, two triples, four homers and 28 RBIs in 75 games with the Nationals after signing with the club in July.

Escobar has a career average of .259 with 245 doubles and 470 RBIs over a total of 12 seasons in the majors with three clubs. He was an AL All-Star for the Kansas City Royals in 2015.

This is the first move of what figures to be a busy offseason for general manager Mike Rizzo after Washington finished last in the NL East with a 67-95 record. The regular season ended on Sunday.

Rizzo opted to tear down the roster at the trade deadline, parting with more than a half-dozen veterans, including shortstop Trea Turner — the eventual NL batting champion — and starting pitcher Max Scherzer

Salvador Perez Ties the Kansas City Royals’ Team Home Run Record

Salvador Perez has earned a place in Royals history…

The 31-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball catcher and Kansas City Royals star hit a team record-tying 48th home run in the first inning, then left Kansas City’s game after striking out in the second on Wednesday night.

Salvador Perez

There was no immediate announcement about why Perez exited early.

Perez homered on the first pitch he saw, extending his major league lead with a three-run drive against the Cleveland Indians.

He also tops MLB with 121 RBIs.

The MLB All-Star catcher matched the club mark of 48 home runs set by Jorge Soler in 2019.

It was the 200th career homer for Perez.

Longtime LA Dodgers Spanish Announcer Jaime Jarrín to Retire After 2022 Season

Jaime Jarrín is preparing for his last call…

The 85-year-old Ecuadorian Hall of Fame sports broadcaster will retire as the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ Spanish-language announcer following the 2022 season, ending a 64-year run with the team.

Jaime Jarrín

Jarrín announced his decision on Tuesday, saying he wants to spend more time with his two sons and grandchildren, as well as travel. He turns 86 in December. Jarrín’s son, Jorge, retired in February, ending the first father-son duo to broadcast baseball on MLB Spanish-language radio.

The elder Jarrín began calling Dodgers games in 1959 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998, becoming just the second Spanish-language announcer to receive the honor.

“I’m grateful to the Dodgers, the best organization in baseball, for giving me the opportunity to do what I love most for 64 years,” Jarrín said.

He has called three perfect games (Sandy Koufax in 1965, Tom Browning in 1988 and Dennis Martinez in 1991), 22 no-hitters, 30 World Series and 30 MLB All-Star games during his career.

“Jaime was integral in introducing the Dodgers to Los Angeles and in giving a voice to the franchise’s Latino stars,” team president and CEO Stan Kasten said.

“We’re going to cherish this last year with him on the broadcast and wish him the best in retirement.”

Plans to honor Jarrín during the 2022 season will be announced later.

Salvador Perez Breaks Johnny Bench’s Record for Home Runs by a Catcher in a Season

Salvador Perez is one hit ahead in the history books…

The 31-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball player for the Kansas City Royals hit his 46th home run on Monday, breaking Johnny Bench‘s record for home runs by a catcher in a season, as the Royals beat the Cleveland Indians 7-2.

Salvador Perez Perez hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning, topping Bench’s total from 1970 for the most by a player who played at least 75% of his team’s games at catcher.

“It was unbelievable,” he said. “I thank God for this. It’s amazing.”

Perez also moved into a tie for the major league lead in homers with Toronto Blue Jays‘ Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and leads the MLB with 115 RBIs, the first catcher with that many RBIs since Mike Piazza in 1999.

It has been a long road for Perez this season to put himself in contention for the home run title. He trailed Shohei Ohtani — the home run leader at the time — by 12 at the MLB All-Star break and made up the distance by hitting 25 homers since July 24.

Only Jimmie Foxx in 1935 has won the home run title after trailing the leader by at least 12 dingers at the All-Star break, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.

“It’s just hard to get your head around, to be honest,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “The long history in this game and how many great players have come through. For him to do something that nobody’s done, it’s amazing.”

Starting again behind the plate — the durable All-Star has seen some time at designated hitter — Perez drove a 1-2 pitch from Triston McKenzie into the left-field bleachers, a drive that traveled 429 feet. Perez pointed to the sky after crossing home plate and was hugged by several teammates as he entered the dugout.

“For a guy who’s so respected in this clubhouse, it was different than your normal home run,” Matheny said. “You could see the look on Salvy’s face. He’ll never forget it.”

Perez tied Bench on Thursday night in Kansas City as the Royals played Seattle. He went 1-for-13 at the plate in the final three games of the series but didn’t feel any pressure to set the record and was more focused on winning games.

“Perez is one of those rare individuals to find energy and passion just to keep playing,” Indians interim manager DeMarlo Hale said. “And the offensive year he’s having it’s even more special. People don’t talk about him in the MVP race, but I’ll tell you what, he’s there in my book.”

Perez also singled in the first and made his presence known defensively when he threw out Myles Straw trying to steal second base in the bottom of the inning.

“He’s a great hitter, to start,” McKenzie said. “Second of all, he’s a great catcher. Threw out Straw early in the game, kind of shut down some of our momentum. He’s a guy that can always make you pay for mistakes. He did just that. He has definitely caught fire toward the end of the season.”

Salvador Perez Ties Johnny Bench’s Record for Homers in a Season by a Catcher

Salvador Perez is rewriting history…

The 31-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball catcher and Kansas City Royals slugger has tied Johnny Bench‘s record for homers in a season by a catcher with his 45th in a 7-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Thursday.

Salvador Perez

Perez hit a two-run homer in the first inning, matching Bench’s total from 1970 for the most by a player who played at least 75% of his team’s games at catcher.

Perez is tied with Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the Major League Baseball lead in homers and also leads the MLB with 112 RBIs.

“We’re witnessing a special season,” manager Mike Matheny said. “We’re witnessing a special player. To be able to be put in the conversation with one most would say is the best ever is pretty rare.”

His talent is not lost on the opposition.

“Salvador, it seems like he’s hitting a home run a day against everybody,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “You can’t miss against him right now.”

Perez is three homers away from matching Jorge Soler‘s team record from 2019. Soler extended the Royals’ record by 10. Perez also tied Mike Sweeney for second on the club’s all-time list with 197 home runs. George Brett holds the club record with 317.

After bouncing back from an elbow injury that caused him to miss all of the 2019 season with an elbow injury, Perez has been on a tear. His 56 home runs in 2020 and 2021 are the most in MLB over that span, while his 144 RBIs rank third.

If Perez, Guerrero and Shohei Ohtani (44) — from Venezuela, Canada and Japan, respectively — are atop the home run leaderboard until the season’s end, it will be the first time in MLB history that the top three leaders were all born outside the United States, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Vince Velasquez Signs Minor League Contract with San Diego Padres

Que padre(s)! Vince Velasquez is heading back to the mound…

The 29-year-old Latino professional baseball pitcher, a right-hander, has signed a minor league contract with the San Diego Padres.

Vince Velasquez

Velasquez, who was released by the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday, is expected to be added to San Diego’s active 28-man roster this weekend in St. Louis and make a start during the three-game series against the Cardinals, the Padres said.

A seven-year veteran, Velasquez, 29, is 3-6 with a 5.95 ERA this season.

He previously played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies.

Teofimo Lopez to Fight George Kambosos in October

Teofimo Lopez is officially ready to rumble…

The 24-year-old Honduran American boxer and George Kambosos have signed contracts for an undisputed lightweight title fight that will take place on October 4 at New York’s Hulu Theater at MSG, Triller COO Thorsten Meier tells ESPN.

Teofimo Lopez

The fight was set for October 5, but Triller moved the fight to avoid competing with a potential wild-card playoff game between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in New York. If the MLB season ended today, that game would take place on October 5.

“We want to make sure the sporting fans can see both amazing events,” Meier said.

Lopez-Kambosos will be the rare Monday evening boxing match in a sport that usually — with rare exception — holds its notable events on Saturday. It’s yet another date change for the seemingly snakebitten event.

Triller won the rights to the fight at a February purse bid with $6.018 million. The fight was planned for June 5 before it was officially set for June 19 in Miami. In the days leading up to the bout, Lopez tested positive for COVID-19.

Triller announced a rescheduled date of August 14 before it looked to stage the fight on October 17 in Sydney, Australia. Lopez balked at the government-mandated 14-day quarantine, leading to a legal battle. The IBF ultimately ruled the fight couldn’t take place in a location that requires quarantine.

The bout between Lopez, a Brooklyn native, and Kambosos, a 28-year-old Australian, was then planned for October 5.

Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs) is ESPN‘s No. 1 lightweight and No. 5 pound-for-pound fighter. He won the undisputed championship in October with a unanimous-decision victory over Vasiliy Lomachenko.

Kambosos (19-0, 10 KOs), ESPN’s No. 9 lightweight, earned the title shot with a split-decision win over Lee Selby later that month.

Albert Pujols Hits First-Inning Home Run in St. Louis Return

It’s a memorable homecoming for Albert Pujols.

The 41-year-old Dominican professional baseball player hit a home run in his return to Busch Stadium, sending the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 7-2 win over his former St. Louis Cardinals team on Tuesday night.

Albert Pujols

The playoff-contending Dodgers won the sixth time in eight games. St. Louis has lost four in a row.

A star slugger who led the Cardinals to a pair of World Series championships, Pujols made his second appearance at Busch Stadium after playing for St. Louis from 2001 to 2011.

Pujols drew a 40-second standing ovation when his name was announced prior to a first-inning at-bat, with catcher and longtime teammate Yadier Molina stepping in front of the plate to prolong the cheer. They had a short embrace before Pujols stepped in. Pujols promptly drilled the fourth pitch from J.A. Happ on a line over the wall in left. It was his 679th career home run and 17th of the season.

“It’s one of those things that you hope could happen,” Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said. “But the likelihood is very improbable. Getting a standing ovation and then homering in that first at-bat. Storybook. I’m a firm believer that the game honors you. The way Albert’s played the game for so long, the right way, that’s the way it was supposed to go.”

Pujols tried to downplay the moment.

“When it happens, you just let it happen,” he said. “It’s part of the game. Embrace the moment. But try not to get caught up too much.”

His teammates had no problem enjoying the special moment.

“It was pretty surreal,” Turner said. “Pretty cool for everyone in the stadium — not just Albert. Every time he hits a homer, you’re watching history.”

The 10-time MLB All-Star drew a similar fan reaction when he returned to St. Louis with the Los Angeles Angels for the first time in 2019. He was given a standing ovation in all 12 plate appearances that series, including a one-minute tribute in his first trip to the plate. He also homered in the first game of that series.

Pujols, who did not play in the series opener Monday night, went 1-for-4. The first baseman signed a 10-year deal with the Angels after the 2011 season, then joined the Dodgers last May.

Yadier Molina Agrees to One-Year Extension with St. Louis Cardinals

It’s the last hurrah for Yadier Molina

The 39-year-old Puerto Rican professional baseball catcher has agreed to a one-year extension with the St. Louis Cardinals, with president of baseball operations John Mozeliak indicating it will be the MLB All-Star‘s final year with his longtime team.

Yadier Molina

Sources told ESPN the deal is worth $10 million, confirming a report by The Athletic.

“We are pleased to announce that Yadi has agreed to cement his career legacy with the Cardinals for a final season in 2022,” Mozeliak said in a statement. “His experience, leadership, work ethic and winning desire are all part of what we value as an organization.”

Molina has spent his entire career — 2,119 games over 18 seasons — with the Cardinals. The only two players to play more games in a Cardinals uniform are Hall of Famers Stan Musial (3,026) and Lou Brock (2,289).

“I’m so happy, so happy,” Molina told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before Tuesday night’s game against the Detroit Tigers.

Molina, who is playing this season on a one-year, $9 million deal, said earlier this month that he did not want to enter free agency again this winter.

A 10-time All-Star, Molina broke into the majors with the Cardinals in 2004 and never left, helping lead the team to four National League pennants and two World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.

He was selected by St. Louis in the fourth round of the 2000 amateur draft. The Bayamon, Puerto Rico, native is a .280 career hitter with 168 homers and 983 RBIs heading into Tuesday’s game.

Molina’s 2,080 career games behind the plate are the most for any catcher with just one team, and he is a nine-time Gold Glove winner.

“On behalf of the Cardinals and our fans, it gives me great pleasure to announce that Yadier Molina will continue his franchise legacy for another season in 2022,” said Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. “Yadi has continued to play at an All-Star level this season, and has already established himself among the greatest players to have ever worn the birds on the bat.”