Juan Soto soaks in fan fervor during pinstripes debut, winds up flinging bat and helmet


NEW YORK (AP) — Juan Soto soaked in the fan fervor on his first day in pinstripes and wound up flinging his bat and helmet in response to his futility.

“Just frustration that comes out,” Soto said after the New York Yankees lost 3-0 to the Toronto Blue Jays in their home opener Friday. “You want to do so (many) things for this fan base and get your team going, and you have the chance to do it and couldn’t get it done. It really gets you mad. And at the end of the day, that’s my fault, shouldn’t do that, but things happen.”

Soto went 0 for 4 with a pair of strikeouts, vexed by the wide strike zone of plate umpire Edwin Jiménez. Still, it was a memorable afternoon for the 25-year-old outfielder.

New York acquired the three-time All-Star from San Diego in December and is assured of Soto for only one season. He can become a free agent this fall and is expected to command a huge deal after turning down a $440 million, 15-year offer from Washington two years ago, which promoted the Nationals to trade him to the Padres.

Soto didn’t wear his heart on his sleeve but rather on his feet. His customized cleats had “Soto (Heart) NY” written on them along with the city’s skyline and symbols for the B and 4 trains that bring fans to the ballpark.

He responded to the first-inning Roll Call of the Bleacher Creatures by turning to the right field seats, raising both arms in tribute, taking a deep bow and then tapping his heart with his glove.

“Always a first time for everything, so I got to give them a little bit of thanks first, because they came over to watch us and and see what we can do,” Soto said. “But definitely I’m going to be doing the love side to them because it’s a love from them to me and (me) to them.”

Soto was given a standing ovation in the bottom of the first when he headed to the plate with “Empire State of Mind” as his walk-up song. He grounded out, then struck out twice around a popout.

Born in the Dominican Republic, Soto noticed how many fans brought Dominican flags to the ballpark.

“Means a lot,” he said. “We all know where we’re coming from.”

Soto said he “slept like a baby last night.” Yankees manager Aaron Boone was anticipating the adulation.

“Obviously, the Dominican population in the Bronx and in New York, it feels like a match made in heaven,” Boone said. “I can’t imagine him not being beloved the way he goes about things and the kind of player he is.”

Soto is in a 1-for-16 slide after starting 9 for 17 with four RBIs over the first four games. New York hopes he will combine with Aaron Judge and its other stars to bring the city its first World Series title since 2009. Judge isn’t lobbying Soto to strike a long-term deal with the Yankees.

“He’s going to make the right decision for himself and his family,” Judge said. “So if he wants to be here, he’ll be here. If he wants to go somewhere else, he’ll go somewhere else. But for right now, I’m focused on doing whatever I can to make sure he has a great season in pinstripes this year and goes out there helps us win a lot of games. ”


AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB

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