CHICAGO -- Former Chicago Cubs slugger Alfonso Soriano said he wouldn’t mind the boos if they came. But he didn’t have to worry about it in his first at-bat during his return to Wrigley Field as a New York Yankee on Tuesday night.
Soriano was given moderate applause when he stepped to the plate to lead off the second inning. There were no audible boos, just some polite clapping and a few cheers. Nothing over the top.
“[Being booed] never bothered me,” Soriano said. “That made [me] a better person [and] to work hard and get better.”
Soriano played 6½ years in Chicago before being traded to the Yankees last July. He had a complicated relationship with fans, some of whom thought he should have played better -- especially in two postseasons -- after signing an eight-year, $136 million contract before the 2007 season.
“When I played here they focused on the contract, not the player,” Soriano said. “I just played every day with pain in my knee and tried to make the team better. They didn’t see that; they saw the contract.”
Soriano’s reputation improved over the years as he performed well while the team around him got worse. Eventually he became a mentor to other players and even improved in the outfield -- the position for which he often was maligned.
“When the team is doing bad and you're the face of the team, for any reason they start booing,” Soriano said. “I wish they can win soon. [The fans] need it.”
Soriano was hitting .248 with six home runs and 17 RBIs for the Yankees coming into Tuesday night’s game. He wants to play for two more years but only if it’s in a winning situation.
The promise of winning was the same reason he signed with the Cubs in November 2006 along with established manager Lou Piniella.
“That’s what I signed for,” Soriano said. “To win here.”
Before Tuesday’s game, Soriano was resigned to whatever crowd reaction was to be directed at him. Either way, he was all right. It’s the same attitude he has in coming to the ballpark every day.
“If they boo me, it’s another day,” he said. “They booed me a lot before. I’m happy. I like to play the game no matter what happens. If they boo me, that’s fine; if not, that’s fine, too.”