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OC Register: Angels rookie Elliot Soto knocks first big league hit after 10 years in minors


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After Elliot Soto’s 10-year minor league odyssey culminated with his first two big league hits, he was asked what made him stick it out so long.

“I don’t know,” the Angels’ 31-year-old rookie said on Saturday night. “I never wanted to give up. I’m a cucaracha. I’m a cockroach. Never die.”

Although the Angels lost 7-6 to the Dodgers in a meaningless game, Soto and Jahmai Jones provided the happy storyline at the end of a mostly disappointing season.

The two infielders had become close since the first spring training back in Arizona and the bond grew as they worked out together at the Angels’ alternate training site in Long Beach.

Each had made his major league debut already, but on Saturday they were in the starting lineup for the first time, Soto at shortstop and Jones at second.

“In BP when we were turning double plays, I’m like ‘Wow, this is comfy,’” Soto said. “This is normal. We’ve got good chemistry.”

The feel-good vibes continued into the third inning, when each stepped to the plate for the first time.

Jones went first, and lined a single up the middle, driving in the Angels’ first run of the game. Soto followed and poked a single into right.

It was the first time in Angels history that players picked up hits in their first big league at-bats in consecutive plate appearances. The last time it happened was in 2016, when Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin did it for the Yankees.

“Everyone was super happy,” Soto said. “It made it a super special occasion for me. And Jam going right before me and getting his, it kind of pumped me up.”

While the moment was obviously unforgettable for Jones too, it came amid a much different context than for Soto. Jones, 23, was a second-round pick in 2015. He had gone through a position change and some swing changes, but he ultimately didn’t reach the big leagues too much later than a normal timetable.

Soto was in his sixth season toiling in the minors when Jones was drafted. His 11th season as a professional nearly ended without an official at-bat anywhere, because of the coronavirus shutting down minor league baseball.

The Angels kept him around as a utility infielder, and he’d traveled with the big league team as part of the taxi squad earlier in the season. He finally got his chance to be on the active roster this week, when Andrelton Simmons opted out.

And on Friday night, Luis Rengifo hurt his hamstring, which gave Soto the chance to get into a game on defense. On Saturday, with the Angels eliminated, he got the chance to start.

To Manager Joe Maddon, who speaks often about his roots in player development and the minor leagues, writing Soto’s name in the lineup was special.

Maddon spoke before the game about Soto’s exceptional defensive skills and he flashed those with a barehand pickup to throw out Chris Taylor. Soto also chipped in a second hit, a double down the right field line.

“Spectacular,” Maddon said. “You saw how good of a player he is. What you saw tonight is no fluke. That’s what he is. That’s what he looks like. He showed tonight why he belongs on the big league level.”

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I've got a soft spot for stories like this.  I'm really glad that the halos were willing to do for Soto.  Even if the guy never plays in the majors ever again, he got to live his dream, even if for a very brief time and under odd circumstances.  I know people wanted to see other guys play who have a legit future in this game, but it means a ton to not only the player but also their friends and families to see him in the bigs.  

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4 hours ago, Dochalo said:

I've got a soft spot for stories like this.  I'm really glad that the halos were willing to do for Soto.  Even if the guy never plays in the majors ever again, he got to live his dream, even if for a very brief time and under odd circumstances.  I know people wanted to see other guys play who have a legit future in this game, but it means a ton to not only the player but also their friends and families to see him in the bigs.  

The sad part is that his family and friends couldn't be there to witness it.

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5 hours ago, Dochalo said:

I've got a soft spot for stories like this.  I'm really glad that the halos were willing to do for Soto.  Even if the guy never plays in the majors ever again, he got to live his dream, even if for a very brief time and under odd circumstances.  I know people wanted to see other guys play who have a legit future in this game, but it means a ton to not only the player but also their friends and families to see him in the bigs.  

It has to give hope to the other "career" minor leaguers that one day they might get a shot at the Big league.

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