“I never thought they would do that. I was thinking they would try to keep me and try to rebuild the team with me,” said Soto at Padres as he tied the other cleat. The New York Mets were beating up the Nationals On a TV hanging a few yards away. “Deep in my heart, I was thinking they wouldn’t do that.”
Soto found himself there, joking with his friend and fellow young star Tates, introducing himself to player Ha Seung Kim with “nice to meet you” and speaking Max Scherzer’s repertoire with catcher Austin Nola, a transformative development for the team he left and the team he joined. That could be a turnaround for Soto and Josh Bell, too.
no 24 hours after boarding a private plane bound for San Diego Paid by Padres, Soto and Bale find themselves surrounding superstar Mane Machado in the opposing squad under the California sun.
“Running from a team that doesn’t have a chance to go here, it feels great,” Soto said. “It’s a new beginning for me. This year, it’s just a new beginning, a new feeling to get out there and give more of what I have.”
Before either of them got worried about going out there at all, they both hauled through Petco Park for social media photo ops and introductory interviews, sitting side by side General Manager AJ Preller and owner Peter Seidler.
Briller Soto provided a story about the time Padres’ assistant general manager learned that the young star was hitting at Point Loma, not far away. Briller said he traveled there after his successful successful season working with the hitting coach, “to work on his craft.” Briller recalled the team’s pursuit of Soto as a teenager in the Dominican Republic — a quest that ended, he said, as Briller rated someone else in front of him. But Briller referred to that January session as a moment when he decided his team would do whatever they could to get it if at all possible.
GM also joked that Bell – a key hitter with a 0.877 percentage on base as well as slow entering Wednesday – “wasn’t bad for a layup” before To make it clear that Bill was much more than that. Since then, Soto’s smile has stolen the afternoon. He blinked when asked about Padres’ squad, who is still waiting for Tates to return from injury and is still waiting for Machado to warm up again.
“I wish the other shooters good luck,” Soto said with a chuckle.
He flashed it again when he explained that bowler Nick Martinez, who had worn the number 22 with the Padres until a few hours earlier, had asked him for a fishing boat for the number.
“It really surprised me. I’ve never seen anything like this before. I saw two guys trying to get numbers and what they gave them away. But when he asked me for a boat, I was really shocked and surprised,” Soto said. I tried to explain to him that I was going to try to get a really great watch and before that.”
The implications of Soto having himself in this squad after a calendar year of being the centerpiece of each opponent’s game plan could extend beyond just a few more smiles. his new manager, Bob Melvinsaid he wasn’t sure what order Soto, Machado and Bale would hit – but he expected Soto and Bill to immediately feel the difference, not just because of the bats around them but also because of Petco Park’s energy.
“I will keep walking,” Soto said. “But it will definitely be more exciting. There will be more opportunities to bring men home. I will have more chances to win matches.”
A person close to Soto said he was getting demoralized at times with the Nationals, worried that the frustrated first half (he hit 246 in trading time – nearly 50 points shy of his career average) would only become more frustrating if Washington traded Everyone else but kept it. After the trade, he was excited about the chance to play “real baseball” again, that person said.
Soto’s swagger never wavered. But here, with talent and energy around him once again, it might soar.
“We talked about it when I was talking to these guys: They’re going to be thrilled on this court,” Melvin said. “It is always exciting, but it will probably be taken to another level today. We will all feel it.”
Soto has never played for a major league manager other than his name Dave Martinez, and he’ll take notice, too. He admitted that saying goodbye to Martinez before he left Nationals Park on Tuesday was one of the hardest parts of a long day with him beginning to wake up to a call from Agent Scott Borras telling him a trade was likely to happen this time. Citizens General Manager Mike Rizzo called him as well, telling him that nothing was official but something was in the works. He said he was still surprised when that happened, even though Boras explained the rationale for the deal to him, even though he’s realized over the past few months that no one is immune to the baseball trade.
“I don’t have any hard feelings for these guys. I still feel good about what they did for me. This is the first team, my first team, the team that makes me a professional,” Soto said. “They gave me the opportunity to come to the major tournaments. They made me a great player. I will always be grateful for that. There are no hard feelings for all of this.”
Soto is hoping some brown and gold cleats will arrive soon. Meanwhile, he was walking around the club in red and white ones, shaking hands with his new teammates. At one point he stopped and looked to his right, and noticed Bell’s new locker across the club.
“JB!” He said as he walked, making a slightly more crooked path to his wardrobe than he would probably do a week from now.
When he first ran in Petco Park, he pointed to the fans in the stands as he used to at the Nationals Park. He looked a little hesitant. And so did they. But four pitches in his career with Padres, he’s been safe at first base. Five hitters in his career with Padres, and he scored a run. After all, for Soto, home is a big box for the league’s speculators, no matter the color of his cleats as they zip through the dirt.
“Student. Incurable problem solver. Amateur baconaholic. Introvert. Infuriatingly humble music fanatic.”