WASHINGTON (AP) — Juan Soto celebrated his 21st birthday with about 40,000 of his closest friends.
Great place for a party, too — Nationals Park for Game 3 of the World Series.
Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz got things going when the former sluggers presented the Washington star with a cake near home plate prior to batting practice Friday .
Then, Soto was serenaded with “Happy Birthday” by fans in left field while warming up for the second inning. He tipped his cap in return.
Before the game, someone mentioned that Soto — now 21 — would be able to toast himself with champagne. He said yes, he could.
It’s been one heck of a season for Soto. After batting .282 with 34 homers and 110 RBIs in the regular season, he helped the Nationals win the NL wild-card game with a clutch single against Milwaukee.
Soto hit a key home run off Clayton Kershaw in the deciding Game 5 of the NL Championship Series win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He went 4 for 7 with two doubles and a home run in helping the Nationals take a 2-0 lead over the Houston Astros.
Soto said his talk with Big Papi and A-Rod was productive, hearing advice from players who had already been in these big-game situations.
Born in the Dominican Republic, Soto said his upbringing made him the person he is today.
“Not just my father. My entire family has been incredible,” he said.
Soto said Washington faced “a little less pressure” at National Parks after winning the first two games of the Series in Houston, but insisted, “We’re going to keep playing the same game, playing hard.”
Unfortunately for Soto, the early stage of the game, played before a sellout crowd at Nationals Park, did not go his way.
Soto grounded out with a runner in scoring position to end the first. He sailed a throw from left field over the catcher trying to get a runner at the plate in the second, and was charged with an error in the third when he fumbled a ball into the corner, allowing José Altuve to reach third base on a double.
Soto became the first player to make an error on his birthday in the World Series since Atlanta shortstop Rafael Belliard in 1995.
Only one player, by the way, has hit a home run on his birthday in the Series: Willie Aikens for Kansas City in 1980.