Elliott: Soto says he had help to get to Rogers Centre
By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
The reason Williams Camacho Soto was taking ground balls Tuesday afternoon at Rogers Centre is basically thanks to a soccer ball.
Follow the bouncing ball ... it really does not matter which one.
Soto was born in Michoacán, located in Western Mexico, the fourth of four brothers to his loving momma Maria.
“There was a lot of poverty where I grew up,” Soto said. So, mom decided to fly to Vancouver with her boys Jorge, Julio, Alan and Williams in 2007. Then, hopefully they would move on to Chicago where they had relatives. The Soto family was unable to emigrate south and an illness with one of the older brothers kept them in the Vancouver area.
So they were put up at a YMCA and then a group home. It all worked out thanks to soccer.
After a couple of years in Vancouver, Ross Barbour entered the family’s lives. Barbour started playing soccer for Cliff Avenue United in the 1960s, which he said was the largest club in the land. It was a far more economical venture for baby boomers and their growing families, who could not handle hockey’s expense: $1 for registration, mothers sewed the uniforms and there were volunteer coaches.
After being divorced for a couple of years, Barbour signed up to be a volunteer as a soccer coach for his son Sean’s U8 and U9 teams. His son Sean and Alan became friends.
“I notice this guy, the boy was dribbling the ball like you wouldn’t believe,” Barbour said from the coast. “At the end of the game they hopped on a bus to take the ride home.”
So he volunteered to drive Alan and Sean to and from games. That’s how Barbour entered the lives of the family of four from Mexico in 2009.
“Mom was being protective, so she got involved and would come to games,” said Soto (Burnaby, BC) “My mom, my brother and I were all staying in the same room of a basement apartment.”
Maria had a successful business making uniforms in Mexico. When she arrived in Vancouver, she cleaned houses for a living.
Fast forward: Alan is a junior striker for the University of Santa Clara Broncos soccer team while Williams, who plays for coach Rene Tosoni’s Coquitlam Reds, is at the Rogers Centre with the rest of the best high schoolers from across Canada.
Barbour bought a house and the family moved in together and gave Maria an engagement ring in 2012.
“He showed us what to do, how to act,” Soto said. “I love him. I would not be here if it wasn’t for him.”
Same for the soccer ball and Barbour driving Alan to practices and games.
“When Alan and Willy came to North America they came into a difficult situation,” Barbour said. “Me getting involved turned out to be the best thing I ever did.”
They were buying their food in a pricey deli, so Barbour introduced the family to Costco. He said he told the boys the difference between a leader and a follower, asked “do you want to work for someone or have people work for you?”. He told them to pay attention to detail, to work harder, get a niche and be honour roll students. He says they are honour students.
When Barbour would slide by after work he’d see that the whole family had completed their chores. Alan went from gold to metro to the White Caps in soccer. Willie played in the Hastings Little League. Barbour said “both worked their asses off.”
Jorge is a welder, Julio works in construction, Alan is at Santa Clara on scholarship and Williams is where Josh Donalson used to stand. All are Canadian citizens now.
“I was in the high performance program with soccer, but I came to the realization [of] my love of the game of baseball,” Williams said. “I was way better at soccer than baseball, but I feel at home playing baseball.”
Williams’ favourite player was New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and the third baseman he likes the most is Hall of Famer Chipper Jones, the former Atlanta Brave. He’s read his autobiography. See people still read.
“The highlight so far was when I first stepped on to the field, the same field Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson played on,” said Soto after his team finished its workout.
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Seated in the third base dugout on scout day the conversation ends.
I shake Williams hand. It is a very firm handshake and he looks me in the eye.
Not a bad handshake I say.
“That’s the way I was taught,” Williams Camacho Soto says.
We can guess by whom.
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Case back on the case? RHP Andrew Case (Saint John, NB) is in town as a coach with Team Black and says he is considering a possible comeback. He is hoping to pitch for Melbourne in the Australian State League this winter. Case retired before the all-star break this season when he was at double-A New Hampshire for a third straight year. Case was the Cinderella story of the first Tournament 12 ... coming east from the Prairie Baseball Academy Dawgs and pitching a no hitter as the Atlantic provinces beat up on the stronger provinces.
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Late but better late than never: Ontario Terriers C Hugh Pinkney (Etobicoke, Ont.) was at a camp in Parry Sound, Ont. when an email arrived Monday morning. Another catcher was needed for T12. His father Colin Pinkney headed north and returned Hugh to the Rogers Centre so he could participate in catching drills on workout day.
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Recruiters watching from four and two-year schools: Kentucky, Sacramento State, Gonzaga, St. John’s, Utah, Illinois, Illinois State, Northern Kentucky, Campbell, University of British Columbia, Iowa Western.
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Pro scouts watching from: Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Oakland A’s, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays.