The 21-year-old slugger completed his second full season with the Nats, smacking five homers and 14 RBIs in the postseason, guiding the franchise to their first World Series title.
“To be champions feels really good,” Soto said on 106.7 The Fan from Nationals Winterfest. “Everything we done with the team, everything, in the clubhouse, everywhere we go, everything we’ve done feels really (good) to be a champion right now.”
Soto got to go home to his native Dominican Republic after the Nats pulled off the improbable win. He said the country was one big party when he arrived home.
“It feels really good. All the people in the Dominican, they get crazy,” Soto said. “They get really crazy when they want. Since I get there they gave me a lot of hugs and made me feel at home. I feel really happy with them and all they did for me. It feels amazing.”
Soto said his success can be an example for all the young kids from his country, showing them that they do have a chance to someday make it to the major leagues. It is a dream that can come true.
“I say it every time: If I did it, you can do it,” Soto said. “Everybody can do it. You just got to be disciplined and be focused on one thing. Play hard, work hard every day. Come to field positive. Try to work the hardest you can and give it your 100 percent and you are going to make it.”
But does the youthful sensation even realize what he has done in two seasons in the big leagues? Is he surprised at his success at such a young age?
“I never think in that way,” Soto said. “I always think I’m a baseball player like the other baseball players on the team. I just try to do my job, try to get my job done and try to help the team the most I can.
“I don’t think I am better than anybody, but nobody is better than me.”
And really, it is that self confidence that is part of the drive of Soto. Yes, he has all the tools to be a great player. But he also believes in himself, and knows he is good at baseball. Very good. Soto also believes he still has room to grow as a player.
“Every day you come to the field you come to learn something new and try to be better every day,” Soto said. “I remember somebody told me you got to come to the field to learn a little bit like this every day. You don’t want to learn (all you need) in one day. You want to learn just a little bit every day (to be) improving and keep going.
“I think last year was a really amazing year. I learn a lot of things. I think this year will be better, more fun.”
Soto says another reason for his success is that the game is fun. And it’s supposed to be fun. That’s the way he approaches each game.
“You play the best baseball in the world,” Soto said. “So, you are going to come happy to play the game. You don’t mind if you’re hitting .230, if you are hitting .300, you got to come with the same energy. That gives you the chance to play the best baseball.”
The left fielder also gave us an inside look into how he and his teammates felt when they got to Houston down 3-2 in the World Series. What did they think about heading into Game 6?
“We just focused to make (sure Max) Scherzer throw in Game 7,” Soto said. “Since we get in the clubhouse, he was excited, he was jumping everywhere. He said, ‘I want to pitch tomorrow.’ Everybody focused to make him pitch the next day.”
Then it happened. The Nats found a way to come back again in Game 7 and win 6-2. The Nats took the 2019 World Series four games to three. Soto tried to put into words the emotions he felt while watching Daniel Hudson record the final out in the bottom of the ninth at Minute Maid Park.
“You can’t explain that. You just feel really happy,” Soto said. “You just feel like a kid in the candy store. Just want to enjoy it, have fun with the guys, jump everywhere, do whatever you want. It feels really good.”
A lot has been made of the offense that Soto provides. But he also worked very hard on improving his defense in left field. He said the instruction and repetition started back in spring training with third base coach (now first base coach) Bobby Henley and center fielder Michael A. Taylor.
“We work a lot with Bobby, and Michael A. Taylor was one of the guys (who helped),” Soto revealed. “He helped me a lot in the outfield. This year he was on top of me, try to work on my arm and my first hard step. He tried to give me some advice (on) how to go to the ball. I think it works. I think we are going to keep going, keep working at it.”