ATLANTA — It’s hard to miss the ornamentation honoring the 2021 World Series champions around Truist Park, and rightfully so. Though that title took a team effort, especially without injured star Ronald Acuña Jr. and pitcher Mike Soroka, no player had more of an impact than slugger Jorge Soler.
The unanimous pick for the Willie Mays World Series MVP Award, Soler homered three times and posted a 1.191 OPS. Each of his taters gave the Braves a lead, including his three-run shot in the third inning that broke a scoreless deadlock in the decisive Game 6. In doing so, Soler became the second Cuban-born player and third midseason acquisition to receive that honor.
Soler, who signed a three-year contract with the Marlins last offseason, returned to Atlanta this weekend. Before Friday’s series opener, he hung out with his former teammates during batting practice. When Soler stepped to the plate for his first at-bat, fans in attendance gave him a standing ovation. Opposing pitcher Kyle Wright clapped from the mound, as the Braves’ organist played “Welcome Back,” then “We Are the Champions.” The goodwill continued on Saturday, when Soler received his World Series ring from Braves manager Brian Snitker during a pregame ceremony. He tried it on and received another hearty round of applause.
“He’s one of those guys who made an immediate impact and fit right in with the team,” Snitker said. “The makeup with that guy is off the charts. He’s a really good guy and great teammate. He played a big part in what we accomplished. He started the series off with a homer and had the big one in Game 6. He had a lot of really, really big moments for us. I could watch that homer in Game 6 every day. I loved his reaction and what it did for our team.”
Atlanta acquired Soler from Kansas City, where he was the AL home run champion in 2019, for a Minor League reliever. With the Royals last season, he had an unimpressive .192/.288/.370 slash line, but he had begun getting hot at the plate. Soler would slash .269/.358/.524 for the Braves in the regular season, even finding himself in the leadoff spot, then compiled a .948 OPS over 11 playoff games.
“I’d seen him in Kansas City when he was really rolling, and then seeing him a lot last year at the end,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “Obviously was a tough out and dangerous. I like what he does. He’s a guy who’s pretty simple at the plate. Kind of seeing it and hitting it all over the field. He’s a guy that’s going to be dangerous as it gets rolling. He has a slow heartbeat for sure. He doesn’t expend a lot of extra energy. Seeing him in the clubhouse or in his work, he doesn’t seem to be too stressed about anything. I’m sure that helps you on that kind of stage.”
Though Soler also was a member of the 2016 Cubs team that ended the Curse of the Billy Goat, he didn’t have a starring role in that Fall Classic. He doesn’t often wear that ring. The 30-year-old would like to recreate those championship memories with his new club in Miami. Soler has gotten off to a slow start, entering Saturday batting .184/.286/.286 in 13 games. But he collected a pair of hits in the series opener, and hoped the familiar surroundings would jumpstart his season.
“It puts great emphasis on my career, a lot of credit on that,” Soler said via an interpreter. “Winning a World Series is the ultimate goal a player can do in professional baseball. Just doing that was something amazing, something that really adds something great, amazing to my career.”