2019 La Vida Baseball Person of the Year – Juan Soto

HOUSTON – Juan Soto was one of many Latino youngsters who dominated the headlines in Major League Baseball in 2019, from spring training through Game 7 of the World Series.

Ronald Acuña carried the Atlanta Braves, frustrating opponents with his play and his swag. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was the front-runner for the American League Rookie of the Year Award before anybody reported to Arizona or Florida. Fernando Tatis Jr. lived up to the hype in San Diego, and Gleyber Torres shone in Yankee pinstripes.

Yordan Álvarez arrived late to the party, but the Astros’ Cuban slugger took full advantage and surged past Guerrero to win the AL Rookie of the Year Award. Ultimately, though, Soto of the Nationals proved to be the best of the lot and a World Series champion.

Charismatic, articulate in two languages and talented with a surplus of confidence, Soto shone all year before owning the World Series stage. The Nationals’ young outfielder has now been named the La Vida Baseball Person of the Year.

The La Vida Baseball Person of the Year Award is given for more than just play on the field. The award recognizes excellence on the field and impact off the field.

Soto, who hit 34 home runs and drove in 110 runs during the regular season, earned the second annual La Vida Baseball Person of the Year. He follows 2018 winner Alex Cora, who earned the award after leading the Boston Red Sox to the 2018 World Series title in his first year managing.

WORTHy company

Soto edged out former Nationals teammate Anthony Rendon, the La Vida Baseball 2019 Player of the Year, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, Nationals manager Dave Martinez, Twins designated hitter Nelson Cruz, Guerrero Jr and Alvarez.

Rendon’s steady demeanor and stellar play proved crucial while he helped the Nationals overcome a rough start to eventually win the NL Wild Card. Molina helped the Cardinals return to the postseason for the first time since 2015, leading St. Louis in the clubhouse and behind the plate while helping Jack Flaherty become one of the best pitchers in baseball.

While many critics called for his job, Martinez never wavered despite a 19-31 start. He kept the Nationals focused on the game at hand all the way to the World Series title. He became only the third Latino manager to win a Fall Classic and the second with Puerto Rican roots in as many years.

Cruz was more than just the best designated hitter in baseball in 2019. He was also the veteran leader who helped the Twins surge to the AL Central title.

Guerrero had an impressive rookie season. Although he didn’t earn an All-Star berth, he stole the show in Cleveland with a herculean display in the Home Run Derby.

Álvarez, 22, easily cruised to the AL Rookie of the Year berth in 2019 with 27 home runs in only 87 games.

It’s interesting to note that Soto is actually 16 months younger than Alvarez. Soto didn’t turn 21 until Oct. 25, the day his Nationals played the Astros in Game 3 of the World Series.

He’s similar in many ways to Acuña, the Braves’ talented outfielder. They both drive opponents crazy with their antics at the plate, but Acuña also upset teammates with a lack of hustle at times.

Playful personality

They celebrate their home runs with gusto, and more. Even their teammates cringe at times. In Soto’s case, he garnered a lecture from his manager after carrying his bat all the way to first base after a pivotal home run in Game 6 of the World Series.

The Astros would have had reason to be upset. Manager AJ Hinch said there was nothing to apologize for after Astros third baseman Alex Bregman had been the first to carry his bat to first base during a home run earlier in the game.

After the game, however, Soto showed his personality by conceding that he vowed to carry his bat to first base on a home run as soon as he saw Bregman do it.

Other players might have apologized. Some may have even tried to justify the home run celebration as a way to get back at Bregman. Soto smiled and said he merely did it because he thought it looked fun.

In a year when MLB commissioned a media campaign saying “Let the kids play,” Soto played with a smile as radiant as the man known as Mr. Smile, Francisco Lindor.

Soto hit and smiled his way to the 2019 La Vida Baseball Person of the Year Award.

Featured imaged/ Jose de Jesus Ortiz

Inset image/ Jean Fruth