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Monday, August 5, 2013
Soriano returns, still connected to ex-mates

By Doug Padilla

Alfonso Soriano
Alfonso Soriano still stays in touch with his former Cubs teammates.
CHICAGO -- Barely a week since he was traded away from the Chicago Cubs, new New York Yankees outfielder Alfonso Soriano is finding it hard to sever ties.

On his way to U.S. Cellular Field on Monday, Soriano said he was on the phone with Cubs catcher Welington Castillo, and has been keeping up to date with the daily ins-and-outs with his former team.

Case in point, Soriano was made aware of the loud cheer that went up in the Cubs' clubhouse on July 28 when Soriano hit a home run in a Yankees uniform against the Tampa Bay Rays.

"Everybody was happy on the (Cubs) team," Soriano said nonchalantly.

Indeed he is missed, especially by the team's contingent of Latin players such as Castillo, Starlin Castro and even newcomer Junior Lake.

"It's part of the game," Soriano said. "Sometimes you have to move and do the best for me and for my family. I tried to do the best for this team in Chicago and the city but it didn't work so I’m wearing a new uniform and with a new team."

Cubs players have already talked about the parting advice Soriano gave and Soriano explained his motivations, acting more like a father figure with words of encouragement to sons leaving for college.

"Before I go I just talked to them and said I'm not going to be around anymore, but especially to Castro I said, ‘You’re a grown man and have three years in the big leagues. Take care of yourself, keep working hard and get better every day,’" Soriano said. "That's what I say to him. And I told Junior, you work hard because they gave you an opportunity. Just keep working and do your thing."

Overshadowing Soriano's return to Chicago was Alex Rodriguez's announced 211-game suspension and his subsequent appeal which enabled him to come off the disabled list play in Monday's game.

Soriano's locker was just a few stalls down from Rodriguez's, but the proximity didn't stop Soriano to make a plea for the integrity of the game.

"We like to compete, but compete clean," Soriano said. "That's part of the game so just complete clean and see what happens. A lot of guys have too much talent and they don'’t know. They don't need it and they don't have to try to do something wrong. God gave you the talent so don't try to be a superhero. Just play with the talent God gave you and see what happens."

Soriano also admitted he would be open to becoming a coach one day for either the Cubs or Yankees, with the stipulation that it fit in well with his desire to get more family time once his playing days end.

His first priority would be to advise young players on the dangers of performance-enhancing substances.

"Especially like those young kids who are the future and are in the minor leagues," Soriano said. "I can help because I don't like what is happening now to the young kids who want to have a future in the big leagues. This organization and the Cubs organization, any organization I would be available to help those young guys not being in those situations."

Maybe if that is in the Cubs organization, his legacy wouldn't be so much about the whopping eight-year, $136 million contract he signed before the 2007 season. Soriano sure hopes he is remembered for something else. He was asked how he hopes people see his time with the Cubs.

"I think all the work I put into myself to make the team play better and try to win a championship," he said. "When I signed with the Cubs that's what I had in my mind. I didn't sign just for the money. I signed to give a championship to the city and that's what I remember. Just working hard and trying to make the team better and trying to go to the World Series."

It didn't happen, of course, but Soriano's hope is that when it does, he might have been able to influence it in the slightest way.