Juan Soto hits his first home run at Yankee Stadium...

Juan Soto hits his first home run at Yankee Stadium since joining the Bronx Bombers #CurtainCall Credit: Send to News

It was 6:06 p.m. — two minutes before the scheduled first pitch Monday.

Juan Soto knows this because he had to catch a glance at the clock before he made his choice.

The fans in the rightfield stands — a man and a young boy wearing a Soto jersey — were coaxing Soto to sign a ball for them. The Yankees young superstar hesitated, looked back to the mound where Nestor Cortes was already toeing the dirt, bit his lip and nodded.

“I had two minutes, so I signed and I turned around and Nestor is almost moving, making his pitch,” Soto said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ He got there pretty quick.”

It was risky, sure. But what’s love without a little bit of risk?

After all, what’s happening in the Bronx — a love affair between Soto and the Yankees — is the faithful who’d like nothing more than to see him stay in pinstripes long after his contract expires at the end of the year.

It was evident when he bashed his first homer in the Bronx as a Yankee in their win over the Marlins on Monday, and the way they kept cheering (and cheering) long after the ball had snuck over the short porch in right. You see it in the New York-themed custom cleats he wears (the rubber sole has Soto (heart) New York written on it), his decision to walk up to "Empire State of Mind," and the way he gestures at fans and hugs himself when he comes up during roll call.

Prior to Tuesday, he had reached base in nine of 11 games this season, compiling a slash line of .357/.462/.548 with six runs, two doubles, 10 RBIs and nine walks. His 24 total bases match the most by a Yankee through the team’s first 11 games since Bernie Williams amassed 25 total bases in 2003. He’s also 5-for-8 with nine RBIs with runners in scoring position. In short, he’s made quick work of shutting down any concerns that he wouldn’t be able to thrive in what’s often viewed as a hostile baseball environment.

“I think it’s been awesome,” Aaron Boone said before Game 2 against the Marlins on Tuesday. “It’s been palpable. You can feel that. And I think Juan has really enjoyed it. You know, he’s been right in the middle of winning baseball here for 11 days, or whatever, of the season. I think he’s really enjoying being in that room, being a part of that group. He’s fit in extremely well. The way the fanbase has welcomed him . . . I think he does a really good job of striking that balance of being very serious about the game and about his craft and all that he puts into it, playing the game with joy — having fun playing the game.”

It certainly seems to have taken Soto aback, and though it’s far (far) too early to tell how this may impact his free agency this coming year, there’s no doubt that the warm reception hasn’t hurt matters. Neither has the immediate bond he’s formed with his teammates — Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres and Anthony Volpe.

“Yeah, he’s incredible,” Volpe said. “Everything he does — the way he carries himself on the field, the way the fans embrace him and the way he embraces the fans. But I think the coolest part is what he does in here, in the clubhouse with the rest of the guys and with the young guys. . . . He brings the energy and we’re obviously looking toward him and what he’s doing. He leads by example. . . . He’s willing to help everyone else.”

And though Soto clarified that he loved the reception he got from fans in San Diego, it does feel pretty special here, too.

“It’s great to see them out there,” he said. “It’s amazing to see how the crowd reacts. It was really cool. They really surprised me with that one . . . I think (it has surprised me). They’ve been showing up every day. It’s been amazing day in and day out and for the entire game.”

DJ on the move

DJ LeMahieu (broken right foot) has begun running the bases, fielding ground balls and is introducing lateral movement after taking batting practice for the first time Monday. There’s still no timeline for his eventual rehab assignment.

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