Juan Soto is quickly becoming the face of baseball
The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals played an incredible NL wildcard game on Wednesday night, but the most exciting thing that happened during the game didn’t even take place on the field. No, it was seeing Juan Soto sitting in the front row in a Trea Turner Washington Nationals jersey, cheering on his former teammate, that really set the baseball world on fire.
And while it might sound pretty ridiculous to say, it shouldn’t be lost on all of us how unique it was to see one of the game’s best players sitting in the stands, equally excited to watch the Wild NL match. like the rest of us. And wearing his buddy’s jersey on top of that.
As you can imagine throughout the game, the cameras cut to Juan Soto cheering on his ex-teammates Turner and pitcher Max Scherzer, who emptied 4 1/3 innings of work without ever really having his best stuff. During all my time watching baseball, I never remember a scene like this. It was… oddly almost intoxicating, to see someone like Juan Soto so fond of baseball that he went to Los Angeles to watch his friends play.
A subtle move, perhaps, that says a lot about the kind of player who could – and should – become the face of the American hobby for years to come.
But Soto’s appearance in the NL wildcard game doesn’t really matter if he isn’t just the best hitter in the game. Although the Nationals ended with a pretty grotesque 65-game winning season and traded assets that put them firmly in rebuild mode, Juan Soto finished with another MVP-caliber season (and should really win the prize if there is. has justice in this world). He finished the year with a line of .313 / .465 / .534 with 29 home runs, 95 RBIs, 145 steps and 163 wRC +. His advanced stats will also have you blackmailed into the sky – and did I mention he’s only 22 yet for a few weeks?
It’s mind boggling to consider what Juan Soto has done in the game already in his first four seasons, and there should be plenty more to come in what is already shaping up to be a Hall of Fame-caliber career.
So it’s all the more impressive – and downright cool – that Soto showed up to a game the way he did to support his friends and just enjoy some great playoff baseball. It’s so easy to forget that athletes are – get it – people like us, and baseball has never done a good job of marketing its stars like that, especially in the post-steroid age.
Although to be fair, a guy like Mike Trout never seemed very interested in positioning himself as the true face of the game, despite being the best player in the world for about a decade. It also doesn’t help that he’s been on consistently mediocre Los Angeles Angels teams.
But Juan Soto has already become a household name for many fans thanks to the World Series National Series in 2019, and the fact that someone of his caliber can fit into a game like this as a spectator and having fun like the rest of us, goes a long way to show the next generation of fans that, hey, baseball actually is supposed to be a good time despite what the unwritten rules might say. Maybe it’s too poetic about a guy just watching a baseball game, but as the phrase goes, how can you not be romantic about baseball?
Guys like Juan Soto, Tim Anderson, Randy Arozarena – and others who are now in the spotlight during the playoffs – understand this. The future of Major League Baseball is actually quite bright despite the game’s best efforts at times.
And at first glance, Juan Soto may well be leading this bright future.