Major League Baseball
How Juan Soto is making himself at home with the Yankees: 'He's here to win'
Major League Baseball

How Juan Soto is making himself at home with the Yankees: 'He's here to win'

Updated Apr. 8, 2024 9:28 a.m. ET

NEW YORK – As the baseball world wonders where one of its generational superstars wants to play long-term, Juan Soto sure is dropping a lot of hints. 

There was Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" as his walk-up song. There was a hat tip and a full-fledged bow for the Yankees fan base during the roll call. There were those jazzy, LED-powered cleats he wore for his new team's home opener Friday. The customized spikes were covered in New York City staples like the Manhattan skyline, a yellow cab displaying "SOTO," the B and 4 subway lines that make stops at Yankee Stadium, plus an inscription that declared, "Soto loves New York."

Then there was his haircut in the Bronx at 3 a.m. 

"I wasn't tired," Soto told FOX Sports. "So I was like, why not? Let's get a haircut and get it over with, so I can enjoy my whole off day."


Gleyber Torres, who's hanging out with Soto a lot these days, posted a photo on his Instagram of the two of them at Jordan MVP Barbershop in Washington Heights. After the Yankees' 6-5 win over the Diamondbacks in Arizona on Wednesday, Torres called the barbershop to let them know he'd be stopping by, with Soto in tow, late into the night.

The Yankees landed in New York around 1:30 a.m., but instead of going straight to the barbershop, Soto and Torres had a different priority. They were starving. So they swung by Legacy Bar & Grill, located about 100 feet from the barbershop, to load up on hearty Latin American food. On Wednesday nights, their kitchen is closed by 11 p.m. But, around three hours after the last call, Legacy made an exception for Soto and Torres and kept the restaurant open just for them. Only after the big meal did Soto and Torres walk down Broadway to get their haircuts. 

"I don't even remember what we ate," Soto said. "I was hungry. It was a little bit of everything."

Soto and Torres downplayed whether there was deeper meaning behind the barbershop Instagram post. But it's not like either of them are frequently and casually sharing updates about everything else they do together. Torres told FOX Sports he eats breakfast with Soto, and they shared a couple of dinners together in Houston amid the team's Soto-powered sweep of the Astros to open the season. Torres and Soto text each other often, even if it's just to ask, "What're you doing?"

So, yes, the photo of Torres and Soto making a late-night trip to the Bronx, one day before their much anticipated home opener this past Friday, seemed intentional. It provided a small glimpse into the friendship they've forged, the camaraderie they've created, and how, even late into the night, there's nowhere else they'd rather be than in the Bronx, eating Latin American food and getting fades together.

Soto doesn't want to tip his hand before he hits free agency this offseason, but he's being loud — through his swagger, hot start and all of those hints — about how much he loves playing in pinstripes. Behind the scenes, Torres has had a lot to do with Soto's acclimatization with the Yankees. The Venezuela native, who is also playing in his walk year, believes there is value in Soto being confident, comfortable and happy at the outset of his Yankees career — a tenure the club hopes stretches beyond just this year. Soto and Torres could help each other land long-term deals with the Yankees.

"As a player, when you know everybody and you feel confident, you play better," Torres told FOX Sports. "He feels good with the team and all the boys. I'm just really happy for him. He's capable of doing really special things. And in the lineup with everybody, he's going to help us go where we want to go."

Torres might be onto something by trying to integrate Soto into the organization. Those who know Soto have said he has a hard time trusting people. At his last stop in San Diego, the Padres reportedly had a hard time reaching him. Some in the Padres organization believed it was best to leave Soto alone, while others thought it was better to check in with him daily and assess his moods, according to The Athletic's Brittany Ghiroli. Adding to that turbulence, Soto didn't look like himself at the plate at Petco Park. In his 1.5 years in San Diego, he seemed disconnected from the Padres and, most apparently, unhappy.

Since Soto reported for spring training seven weeks ago, there has been no such confusion from Yankees players and staffers about how to work with him or how to decipher what he's thinking and feeling. Soto is enthusiastic about sharing what he's learned, particularly during his 2019 championship run with the Nationals. 

"He's bringing a lot of memories from the way they won the championship," Yankees third base coach Luis Rojas told FOX Sports. "They were 19-31 in the regular season. He told me everything they went through in the regular season, and then the playoff push, then being in the playoffs, then being in the World Series against the Astros, all in terms of what we need to do. He's like, 'When you get to that point, you gotta do this.' He's a guy that only talks about winning. He's here to win." 

While individuals in the Yankees system continue getting to know Soto, Rojas has been awestruck by his maturity and assimilation into the organization. 

"He's liking New York a lot," Rojas said. "He's liking the clubhouse a lot. He's impressive from across the diamond, but being with him, I'm telling you, I'm amazed. I've been surprised of his personality at a young age. When I met [Aaron] Judge, I saw a similar type of attitude. Even though he's not trying to be that guy, because Judge is team captain. We had a few conversations in spring where [Soto] would go, 'Whatever he says,' given Judge's position on the team."

Soto knows he's a superstar, but he's still deferring to Judge (another superstar) on team matters. It's a small gesture with a big impact, signaling strong clubhouse chemistry and respect for his teammates. Even though he's a four-time Silver Slugger and three-time All-Star, and has won a championship and a batting title, he's still new to the Yankees. He's so new that when he walked into the Yankees clubhouse four hours before Friday's home opener, Soto took one step into the oval-shaped locker room and stopped. He didn't know which locker belonged to him. Soto's eyes searched the name plates in the room until he found his own, nestled between the lockers of Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton. He smiled, and went about clearing space and unpacking his accouterments. A clubhouse attendant quickly surfaced in case he needed help.

There's usually a learning curve for players who walk into the beast that is the Big Apple. But, for Soto thus far, that slope has been more like an anthill. His superstardom taking over Yankee Stadium — pumping up the crowd, juggling a handwarmer and playing tricks to keep himself entertained in between outs in right field, and all those Dominican flags swarming the Bronx — is just another reason the Yankees figure to be the favorite to sign him in free agency in seven months. 

"They should probably do anything they can to keep him," former Yankees infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa told FOX Sports. "He's a great fit for that organization."

"We feel like he could end up here long term," Rojas said. "In your wish list, you want to keep him forever." 

Consider Soto's dynamite start and .873 OPS through his first 10 games with the Yankees as step one to potentially keeping him in pinstripes for the rest of his career. New York, now 8-2 to begin the season after taking two of three against the Blue Jays this weekend, just needs Soto to be Soto, ideally creating a ripple effect for the rest of the lineup and propelling the club back to a World Series. Either way, the Scott Boras client is expected to command more than $500 million in free agency, a number that might rise if Soto has a sensational platform year. But from the moment he was traded to the Yankees four months ago, the 25-year-old has been planted in the present — and he loves it.

"Since day one, it feels really nice to be a part of this organization and get to see how great they are," Soto said of his Yankees home opener. "It's a great feeling to be a part of the whole history that they've had since day one. It's really cool to be a part of it."

Soto can be more than just a part of Yankees history. If he keeps being Soto, and the rest of the team does its part, Soto can be one of the biggest reasons the Yankees make history.

Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Deesha grew up on Long Island and now lives in Queens. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.


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