Jorge Soler curled his lips into a half smile as he stood inside the Royals’ clubhouse late Sunday afternoon. He looked to his right, toward Royals catching coach Pedro Grifol, who was serving as his interpreter. Soler began to speak, but whether the words were uttered in his native Spanish or English, he had no answer.
“He doesn’t really know how to explain it,” Grifol said.
In a 9-8 victory over the Orioles on Sunday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium, Soler launched his first homer of the season, a cruise missile that left the bat at 114 mph, was projected to fly 464 feet, and never traveled higher than 55 feet off the ground, according to MLB’s Statcast system. The baseball hung in the air for just 4.4 seconds. It was the Royals’ longest homer of the season.
“I don’t think I’ve seen a ball hit harder than that in this park,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “It was on a dead line over the center-field wall. It was smoked.”
The titanic blast, which came against Orioles reliever Richard Bleier in the sixth inning, gave the Royals an 8-5 lead as they completed a three-game sweep. Soler said he could remember hitting just one homer that compared to his solo shot on Sunday.
“One time,” Grifol said, translating for Soler. “One time in Chicago.”
This one, however, was slightly different.
“He felt better today,” Grifol said.
For Soler, the homer comes on the heels of a sluggish start to his first season with the Royals.
Acquired in the offseason in a trade that sent closer Wade Davis to the Cubs, Soler strained an oblique muscle during the final week of spring training and missed all of April. He returned on May 6 against the Cleveland Indians and went hitless in his first four games. He picked up his first hit as a Royal in a 12-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday. He collected two hits Saturday night before clubbing his first homer on Sunday.
He finished the day 4 for his first 28 with two doubles and a homer. He’s also drawn five walks while striking out seven times. Yet, Sunday’s homer displayed the staggering power that Soler possesses in his 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame.
“Real happy to get that first one out of the way,” Soler said of the homer. “Especially with that line drive.”
Before Kauffman Stadium’s latest renovation, which was completed in 2009, Soler’s homer would have landed high on the grassy hill in center field. Instead, it soared over all three walls — the center-field wall, a brick facade, and the batter’s eye that juts high into the air.
Yost said he had never seen anything like it at Kauffman Stadium.
Soler spent a moment trying to explain the feeling of hitting a baseball that hard. But after thinking it over for a second, he couldn’t quite find the right description.
“He really didn’t feel it, either,” Grifol said. “It’s one of those feelings, he doesn’t know how to explain it. But it felt nice.”