LOS ANGELES ( Associated Press) — Juan Soto took a heavy gamble on his talent and health by turning down a long-term, million-dollar contract extension from the Washington Nationals.
And then the Dominican went to the home run derby at Dodger Stadium and showed why he almost certainly couldn’t go wrong with his decision.
Soto won the Derby for the first time on Monday night, defeating rookie Julio Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners 19-18 in the final.
The 23-year-old Soto scored a total of 53 home runs after beating each of his three opponents by home runs at the midseason show. He was focused on the plate, despite having spent an hour before he repeated repeated questions about his possible departure from the Nationals after turning down a $440 million offer.
“It feels amazing. He feels tired,” Soto said. “I just tried to focus on hitting the balls, because I know I have the power.”
Soto threw the bat in celebration after falling into the final home run stand. With that slam he became the second youngest winner in baseball history to win a home run derby in a single day. At 23 years and 266 days, Soto is only one day older than Juan Gonzalez when he won in 1993.
Soto hit a 482-foot (146-m) line drive in right-central field to beat Cleveland compatriot Jose Ramirez 18-17 in the first round, beating fellow Dominican Albert Pujols, 42, 16-15 in the first round. entered the finals. ,
Soto then got off to a slow start, finishing second behind 21-year-old Mariners Phenom in the final round, failing to hit his first home run until he could swing his 10th. In the long run he was in a trance to be crowned in a derby, beginning with a fireworks show on the field that stunned the contestants.
Soto’s longest home run in the night was 471 feet (143 m), hitting the game-winner of 415 feet (126 m) with 20 seconds remaining in overtime. He was immediately surrounded by other Dominican figures from the All-Star Game.
Soto highlighted a million dollar prize and a new career at a time when his time with Washington was about to end. The Athletic reported over the weekend that Soto turned down an offer of 15 years to stay with the Nationals, and could be traded at the end of the month.
“I’m not even thinking about it right now,” said Soto, raising the trophy over his head. “I am a champion and I will be a champion for the nationals.”
Rodriguez marked his arrival on baseball’s biggest stage with a dynamic three-round performance at Dodger Stadium, where he has yet to play for the Mariners. Only four players had managed to hit 30 homers in the same derby before Rodriguez did so in the first two rounds, and he finished the night with 81.
His 32 hits against Texas’ Corey Seeger in the first round was the second-most in that round, and the rookie added 31 in the semi-finals and left two-time defending champion Pete Alonso, who finished with 23.
Pujols defeated favorite Kyle Schwarber in a heart-wrenching reversal in the first round, before Soto ended his night with a win that might not have bothered Pujols, who had been a part of many Dominicans such as Soto and Rodriguez. There was a statue.