Baseball is life: Twins' No. 34 pick eager to give back

July 10th, 2023

This story was originally published on June 24. We have updated it to reflect Charlee Soto being drafted No. 34 overall by the Twins.

PHOENIX -- Baseball, to Charlee Soto, is a game of joy.

From the players of the Central Florida Miracle League that Soto lends his time and resources toward, to those he has trained alongside on the fields of the Dominican Republic chasing the dream of a better life via the game, the player selected No. 34 overall by the Twins in the 2023 MLB Draft has an awareness of the stage that the sport has presented for him -- and he’s eager to reciprocate his jubilation.

Playing his high school ball at Reborn Christian Academy in Kissimmee, Fla., Soto has embraced the platform that comes with having success on the diamond.

“The Kissimmee/Orlando area, they support me a lot,” Soto said. “I realized that I have to show my love back to them. I have to give back to them for all of the support they’ve shown me.”

That display of gratitude has come in many forms, including volunteering his time to work with local special needs ballplayers.

“They didn’t get the opportunity that I have, but they’re out there playing the game with joy,” Soto said of the Miracle League participants. “If they needed help throwing the ball or running or catching, I and my relatives were there to help. It was a great experience and I’m excited to be able to do it again in the future.

“It just brings so much joy to me to see them smile and to see them just go out there and have fun like I've been doing since I was little, just having fun with the game. It gives me a different perspective of the game and it's just amazing seeing them go out there and just play as hard as they can.”

Standing 6-foot-5, Soto brings an imposing presence to the hill, and that’s before he rips off a fastball that has been consistently clocked in the upper-90s over the past year. Heralded as one of the premier high school arms in the 2023 class, the 17-year-old is the latest in a lineage of pitchers in his family; his father, Carlos Sr., played in Puerto Rico and his older brother, Carlos Jr., is currently a pitcher at Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill.

“Growing up, he was the guy who taught me how to pitch basically,” Soto said of his father. “He taught me that you have to run a lot to keep your arm healthy. You got to swim a lot to keep your arm healthy. … Once I got to the age of 13-14, he kind of just let me do my own thing, but he was a big part of me being a pitcher to this day. Him being a pitcher helped me so much to get where I am today. I’m just glad that I had a father like him.”

For as integral as his father was in his formative years on the hill, Soto credits Andres Marrero, a 29th-round selection in the 2007 Draft by the Rockies, as having had a significant impact on the recent honing of his repertoire during the time that the two have worked together down in Florida.

Getting unique perspectives on the game has been a constant for Soto, who trained in the Dominican Republic during 2021 and ‘22, often matching up against much older players who were eyeing the professional ranks.

“Just the way they play the game out there is just different. They play the game with a different type of passion, different type of joy,” Soto said. “They play the game very hard everyday. It showed me that you can have the best talent in the world, but without hard work, you won’t get anywhere.”

Soto -- who is just 17 years old -- has displayed preparation in all facets of what comes along with being an early-round pick: his head-to-toe outfit for meetings with front office personnel at the Draft Combine and what he would don on Draft night were picked out far in advance of the events themselves. The right-hander, who is currently committed to play at the University of Central Florida, was among a handful of prospects who attended the Draft in person in Seattle.

“It would mean everything to my family [to see me play pro ball],” Soto said. “I don't think there's been a pro athlete in my family, so if I have the opportunity to be the first, it's going to bring a lot of emotion and a lot of joy to my family because I know my dad has always wanted one of his kids to be a professional athlete. He didn't get the chance to do it.

“So if I have the chance to give them that back and just bring joy to the family, it's going to be a great, great opportunity.”