Elvin Soto’s meteoric rise continues.
The Xaverian rising senior thought it couldn’t get any better than verbally committing to play for Pac-10 powerhouse Arizona, a rarity for a New York City standout. But the switch-hitting catcher from the Bronx took a step further when he was named to the Team USA 18U National Team last week.
“Going to Arizona is big, but playing for your country is even bigger,” said Soto. “Getting a chance to play with these guys, they’re great players and coaches. Being able to open doors up for New York City kids, I’m pretty excited.”
Fittingly, his first game in a USA jersey came at MCU Park in Coney Island, his home away from home with the Clippers. It was the opener of a five-game exhibition series against the Greater New York Sandlot Athletic Alliance on Tuesday afternoon.
In front of friends and family, Soto started for Team USA, going 1-for-3 with an RBI and two walks in an 8-5 victory.
“It’s crazy, its nuts,” Soto said. “I was really looking forward to wearing the USA jersey so I’m happy it happened.”
It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks for Soto, who was named to The Post’s second-team All-City squad last month. First came the Perfect Game National Showcase at Tropicana Field in Florida, immediately followed by the Tournament of Stars, which also featured George Washington shortstop Mike Antonio, at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, NC.
Then came the 18U Trials, also in Cary, and Soto continued to impress the Team USA coaching staff.
“He really stood out at the Tournament of Stars as the best defensive catcher that was there,” Team USA 18U manager Garye LaFevers. “When we brought him to trials you start to learn other things about him … He does a good job of handling the pitching staff, communicating with the infield, he brings a lot of enthusiasm and bounce to the game and he’s doing a great job for us.”
Six minutes into a meeting last week, Soto realized the dream of a lifetime.
“When I heard my name called at that meeting it was just overwhelming,” he said. “I just started crying. You really don’t get a lot of kids from New York that make this USA team. It’s just crazy.”
While Soto is on the United States radar, any hope of playing in the Olympics in two years was dashed when the International Olympic Committee voted baseball out of the 2012 London Games five years ago.
However, Soto continues to impress and no doubt will be one of the most sought after players in the New York area next year. But his initial concern is about playing well in the 2010 IBAF ‘AAA’ World Junior Championship in Thunder Bay, Ontario later this month.
Soto acquitted himself well in his first game in a Team USA jersey. He drove in Christian Lopes with a single to left in the second inning and worked out walks in the sixth and eighth innings. After the game, Soto was besieged with photo requests from friends and family in between a pair of interview requests.
Not bad for someone who was all but ignored when he tried to garner the attention of the 14U staff a few years ago.
“My freshman year I filled out an application for the 14U team, but I never got a response back,” Soto said. “This year was my year and I got lucky.”