If the Nationals’ 19-year-old phenom Juan Soto has proven anything in his month or so in the majors, it’s that he and the spotlight are close friends.
In his first at-bat of his first start, Soto launched a three-run home run on the first pitch he saw. He’s been nearly unstoppable since, hitting to the tune of 0.7 fWAR and a .344 average.
If Yankee Stadium is anything, it’s baseball’s biggest stage before the postseason — the location, the history, the atmosphere, and—in years like these—the team, are unmatched in many ways.
Adding even more to the pressure of the game between the Nationals and the Yankees was its relevance to the NL East standings; the Nats had gone scoreless the previous two games, and the Braves continued to show no sign of slowing down.
Soto, unsurprisingly, was not deterred by the spotlight of a game on national television against the team that America loves—or in many cases, loves to hate.
In his first plate appearance, Soto walked before being picked off first. However, in the fourth, with Daniel Murphy and Matt Adams on first and second, Soto launched a ball way up in the air with a launch angle of about 45 degrees off the bat. It was going to the opposite field. There was no way it would get out.
Then, carried by some power—perhaps by the electric current that runs under the stadium that hosts the hottest team in the league, perhaps by the mythological forces that coalesce in the stadium despite its clear inferiority to its predecessor—the ball escaped over the left-field wall.
Juan Soto aka Childish Bambino pic.twitter.com/b3e1DDfv00— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 14, 2018
Juan Soto skies a HR to LF at Yankee Stadium.— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) June 14, 2018
It's just the 3rd time since Statcast began tracking in 2015 that a Nats player has hit a HR with a 45+ degree launch angle. pic.twitter.com/gqX1OD2iFj
Coming to the plate again in the seventh, Soto found a 92 MPH fastball down the heart of the plate in front of him. This one did not need any help from whatever demons or angels lie under the stadium, landing far, far, far from home plate (try 436 feet on for size).
Hello, us again.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 14, 2018
Just popping in to remind you that Juan Soto is 19. pic.twitter.com/ZAEUxh7hss
Even the Yankees broadcasters were impressed:
Oh my goodness. Juan Soto’s raw power is jaw dropping. He just hit a home run that went into orbit. Never seen a ball hit there before. Wow pic.twitter.com/9msPrn9b5i— Jesse Foster (@Jesse__Foster) June 14, 2018
Postgame reactions to Juan Soto:— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) June 14, 2018
Davey, before he could be asked a question: “I’ll start by saying: Soto’s really good.”
Fedde: “It’s unbelievable, really. ... He’s a special kid.”
Justin Miller: “He’s the truth.”
Rendon on Juan Soto: “That man is the TRUTH.”— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) May 5, 2018
Juan Soto:— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) June 14, 2018
3rd visiting teenager in the last 50 years to HR at any Yankee Stadium.
Ken Griffey Jr., May 30, 1989
Robin Yount, April 27, 1975