Juan Soto has popularized the “Soto Shuffle” between pitches as he sizes up the pitcher and what he might throw him during each at-bat.
But a lot of times between pitches, it looks like Soto is having a conversation with the umpire or the catcher.
Soto says he exchanges nothing more than “hellos” with the umpires. But against the Phillies, Soto does have playful back-and-forth chats with their catcher, two-time All-Star J.T. Realmuto.
“For me, I just say ‘Hi,’” Soto said during the postgame Zoom video call Monday night. “My first at-bat I say, ‘Hi’ to the umpire, say ‘Hi’ to Realmuto. Mostly in my at-bats I am just talking with Realmuto. He’s a real nice guy. We just talking to each other. Sometimes we are talking trash to each other and we just try to have fun at that time. He tries to do his job, I try to do mine. We just talking.
“I don’t try to talk too much with umpires. Sometimes they take it in the wrong way and they can throw me out. I just try to calm down, talk to Realmuto, try to have a good time there.”
Soto slammed a pair of two-run homers Monday night in the Nats’ 8-6 loss to the Phillies. During his five plate appearances he also struck out, walked and flew out to left field. And also during those at-bats, Soto chatted with Realmuto.
“He’s one of my favorites because he is always happy,” Soto said of the 29-year-old Realmuto. “He don’t mind. He just try to do his job behind there. Some catchers, they are always mad. They always try to get you. That’s why I don’t talk with everybody. I just try to be nice with them. But Realmuto, he’s a really nice guy. He always try to get me and we just fight each other.”
In 2019, the Nats played the Phillies 19 times, and the two teams have already matched up three times this season. Most of those games, Soto steps in and Realmuto is catching for the Phillies. Their relationship might pay dividends down the road as well. The veteran catcher is signed through the end of this season but then becomes a free agent. Realmuto has been with the Phillies for two seasons after starting his career with the Marlins in 2014.
Looking into the crystal ball, maybe - just maybe - the budding friendship that Realmuto and Soto have established might help if the Nats pursue the talented backstop as a potential free agent signing for the 2021 campaign.