Juan Soto hit his ninth home run of the season and the 65th home run of his career to right field in Fenway Park last night.
Soto, 21, toured the Boston Red Sox’ home before the game, the 287th of his career, after he debuted in 2018, three years after signing out of the Dominican Republic for $1.5M in 2015.
The story of how the Nationals signed Soto?
In an MLB Network Radio interview on Friday afternoon, Nationals’ Vice President, Assistant General Manager of International Operations, Johnny DiPuglia, shared the story of how he’d scouted and signed a then-16-year-old Soto.
“I think I’ve said this story quite a bit, but we scouted him pretty intensely in the Dominican, and there was a showcase in Ft. Lauderdale and I went over there to see him,” DiPuglia said.
“And he was impressive, the way his at bats were, the way he tracked balls, the way he hit line drives foul pole to foul pole, so I was able to get him out of the game and put him in a batting cage in Ft. Lauderdale, which was kind of abandoned at that time, it’s since been knocked down, and there was a homeless person in there, I had to go in there and give him $20 to get him out of there so we could work [Soto] out. We worked him out and this guy was hitting balls like a bomb was coming off of a tank and we came to a verbal agreement.
“When I came out Mike Russell (Detroit) and De Jon Watson (Arizona) were outside trying to figure out what was going on, and I told them to move on that the deal was done, so they were a little too late on the evaluation.”
“Now De Jon works with me, De Jon works with the Nationals,” DiPuglia added.
Does he ever bring up that story with his coworker now?
“He brings it up all the time: ‘I offered that kid $2.5M and he signed with you for $1.5M, why did that happen?’”
“I go, ‘Once they give me a handshake they’re never going to go back on it.’”
How did he know he needed to sign Soto? What did he see?
“There’s a saying that a good friend of mine Rene Gayo always told me. He said ‘When you go to a ball field and you see a dog playing checkers, sign that guy.’
“I don’t know if you guys understand what I’m trying to tell you? Have you ever seen a dog playing checkers?”
“That was Juan Soto the day we evaluated him in that Ft. Lauderdale stadium.”