Professional baseball player
B orn Alfonso Guilleard Soriano, January 7, 1976,in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic;son of Andrea Soriano; married Angelica; children: Alisis, Angeline, Alfonso Jr.
Addresses: Contact—Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field, 1060 West Addison, Chicago, IL 60613.
S igned with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of the Japanese baseball league, 1994; played baseball in Japan, 1995-97; signed with the New York Yankees, 1998; made major league debut with Yankees, 1999; traded to Texas Rangers, 2004; traded to Washington Nationals, 2005; traded to Chicago Cubs, 2006.
Awards: All-Star Team, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007; Major League Baseball All-Star Game, Most Valuable Player, 2004; American League Silver Slug-ger Award, 2002, 2004, 2005; National League Silver Slugger Award, 2006.
A lfonso Soriano is the only major league baseballplayer in the “40-40-40” club. In 2006, whileplaying for the Washington Nationals, Soriano smacked 46 homers, stole 41 bases, and slapped 41 doubles, becoming the first player to put up numbers in the 40s in all three categories in a single season. During the off-season, Soriano’s offensive skills garnered him an eight-year, $136 million free-agent contract with the Chicago Cubs, the biggest deal in the club’s history. By the start of the 2007 season, there was speculation that Soriano could become baseball’s first 50-50 player—no one has ever stolen 50 bases and hit 50 homers the same season. “He has a great combination of speed and power,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella told Sports Illustrated Kids writer Ted Keith. “Those are pretty good numbers to shoot for.”
Soriano was born on January 7, 1976, in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. He was raised by his grandfather, a chicken farmer, and his mother, Andrea Soriano, in the tiny Caribbean town of Inge-nio Quisqueya. The youngest of four, Soriano spent many days tagging along beside his brothers as they headed to the baseball field. He was playing ball by the age of six. Growing up, Soriano’s baseball hero was Golden Glover Tony Fernandez, who was also from the Dominican Republic. As Soriano grew older, he dreamed of a future playing professional baseball. When he batted, he tried to emulate the stances of the major leaguers he watched on television. “I would be Cal Ripken,” Soriano told the Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga. “Then I would be Tony Fernandez. I had heroes. I wanted to be like them.” At the time, Soriano was small and skinny, giving off no hints he would grow into a 180pound, 6foot1inch power hitter.
When Soriano was a teenager, many of his friends cut school so they could play baseball at the local academies sponsored by major league teams scouting for young talent. Soriano stayed in school, though, on his mother’s orders, so U.S. scouts never got a chance to see him play. Instead, Soriano played baseball after school in a community league that faced off against the teams from the Japanese academies. The Japanese scouts saw potential in So-riano, a shortstop at the time. In 1994, Soriano signed with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp and by 1995 he was playing ball in Japan. “At first my mother didn’t want me to drop my studies when I signed with the Japanese [league], but thanks to family members who convinced her I was old enough to make that decision, I was allowed to take the opportunity and go to Japan,” he told Latino Leaders.
Living in Japan made Soriano homesick. He struggled with the language and with the food, which was so different from his Caribbean homeland. Fellow Dominican players had to talk him into staying. In 1996, playing in the Japanese minor leagues, Soriano hit .214. His batting average hit .252 the next year and by 1997, he was playing in the Japanese majors. Shortly thereafter, the team released Soriano over a contract dispute.
In May of 1998, Soriano traveled to the United States and played in a semi-professional league in Los Angeles, trying to grab the attention of major league scouts. He signed as a free agent with the Yankees in 1998. Soon, he was working out at the club’s facilities in Tampa, Florida, and began studying English. In Tampa, Soriano frequented a Latin restaurant that reminded him of home. There, he met a waitress from Panama named Angelica, who later became his wife.
Though Soriano had already played in the major leagues—in Japan—the Yankees assigned him to a Class AA minor league team in 1999, where he hit .305. By the end of the season, the Yankees had called Soriano up and he made his major league de-but on September 14, 1999, pinch-running for Dar-ryl Strawberry. Ten days later, Soriano hit his first major league homer.
During 2000, Soriano made just 22 appearances with the Yankees, who already had a star shortstop in Derek Jeter, leaving Soriano out of the lineup. In 2001, Soriano garnered more playing time after Yankees All-Star infielder Chuck Knoblauch suffered an arm problem and Soriano stepped in to fill his position at second base. That season, Soriano stole 43 bases, breaking the Yankees’ single-season rookie stolen base record set in 1910.
In 2002, the Yankees made Soriano their leadoff hitter and his offensive skills began to attract attention. He hit .300 that season and made his first All-Star team. Soriano also had 39 homers and smacked in 102 runs. He led the American League with 209 hits and 41 stolen bases. In 2003, Soriano hit 13 leadoff homers, a single-season major league record. That year, the Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox to win the American League pennant, but lost the World Series to the Florida Marlins.
In February of 2004, Soriano was traded to the Texas Rangers. By now, the bat-whacking speedster had become a fan favorite and he garnered the most votes of any player during that year’s All-Star balloting. He rewarded voters during the All-Star game by smacking a first-inning, three-run homer off National League starter Roger Clemens. After the game, Soriano was crowned All-Star Most Valuable Player.
In December of 2005, Soriano was acquired by the Washington Nationals, who desperately wanted Soriano’s offensive power but already had an All-Star second baseman—Jose Vidro. The Nationals wanted Soriano to play left field but he refused and was yanked from the starting lineup during spring season play. Eventually, Soriano agreed to the position change. Soriano grew into the position, contributing to double plays and tallying 22 outfield assists that season.
Though Soriano struggled at times adapting to the outfield, he remained steady behind the plate. During 2006, Soriano hit 46 homers and stole 41 bases, making him the fourth 40-40 player in history behind Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, and Alex Rodriguez. At the end of the season, Soriano became a free agent and was scooped up by the Chicago Cubs, who, as of 2007, had not won a World Series in nearly 100 years. The Cubs moved Soriano again, this time to center field.
During the off-season, the bat-slapping, base-stealing Soriano often returns to the Dominican Republic. He brings countless baseballs and other equipment, which he distributes to the kids playing on the streets, hoping some of them will one day realize their dream, just like he has.
Baseball Digest, October 2002, p. 46; November 2006, p. 54.
Chicago Sun-Times, November 21, 2006, sec. Sports, p. 100.
Latino Leaders, October/November 2004, p. 32.
Sports Illustrated, May 1, 2006, p. 73.
Sports Illustrated Kids, June 2007, p. 22.
USA Today, April 2, 2007.
Washington Post, July 11, 2006, p. E1.
“Alfonso Soriano,” Baseball-Reference.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com/s/soriaa101.shtml (July 30 2007).
“Alfonso Soriano,” ESPN, http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/profile?statsId=6154 (July 30, 2007).