Juan Soto, and his between pitches shuffle, have caught the attention of some opposing teams and pitchers, in particular, and he had that beef with Atlanta Braves’ veteran Will Smith a few weeks back, which was ... weird. And weird mostly because in his first three MLB seasons, the 21-year-old outfielder has established a reputation as real affable, fun-loving, and humble star.
That side of the slugger, his friendly, outgoing demeanor, was on display when he stepped to the plate in the City of Brotherly Love on Monday night and chatted up home plate umpire Chad Whitson and Philadelphia Phillies’ catcher J.T. Realmuto, though, Soto qualified after he hit two, two-run home runs in a 2 for 4 game in a loss, he was mostly just talking to Realmuto.
“For me I just say, ‘Hi,” Soto explained. “My first at bat I just say, ‘Hi,’ to the umpire, say, ‘Hi,’ to Realmuto. But mostly in my at bats I’m just talking with Realmuto. He’s a really nice guy.
“We’re just talking to each other, sometimes we’re talking trash to each other, and we just try to have fun at that time. He tries to do his job, I try to do mine, we’re just talking.”
He doesn’t talk to umpires much, Soto explained, because some of them aren’t too friendly.
“I don’t try to talk too much with umpires, because sometimes they take it in the wrong way, and they can throw me out,” he said, “... so I just try to calm down, just talking Realmuto and just try to have a good time there.”
Asked if it was just a thing with Realmuto, who’s been behind the plate for divisional rivals in each of Soto’s three big league campaigns, first with Miami and now in Philly, or if he talked to different catchers as well, the Nationals’ left fielder said it was mostly just the Phillies’ catcher.
“He’s one of my favorites, because he’s always happy,” Soto said.
“He don’t mind. He just tries to do his job. Some catchers, they’re always mad, they always try to get you, that’s why I don’t talk with everybody, I just try to be nice with them.
“But Realmuto, he’s a really nice guy. He always tries to get me and we just fight each other.”
Soto’s manager, Davey Martinez, laughed when Soto’s tendency to chat with Realmuto was mentioned in his pregame Zoom call on Tuesday afternoon, but focused on the second half of the question, which was more about the outfielder’s advanced approach at the plate.
“He was told when he was younger that he needed to accept his walks, and he took it upon himself to really learn the strike zone, and you see him doing that really well now,” Martinez said.
“He doesn’t expand the zone. He has a good eye. He doesn’t — when he thinks it’s a ball he doesn’t gripe about it, he looks and wants to make sure that he understands where that ball is, and he’s studying the umpires as well, so when he gets to two strikes, if he thinks that ball is what the umpire is going to call a strike, then he’s prepared that, hey, you might have to expand the strike zone a little bit just to cover that pitch.
“He’s unbelievable. He takes every pitch — he doesn’t take a pitch off every at bat, and you can tell by the outcome how well he’s doing and how well he understands the hitting game and the strike zone.”
Yeah, but what about Soto talking to Realmuto, Davey? Plate discipline is nice and all, but what about fun chats with the opposing catcher? C’mon.