When Joakim Soria was 21 years old, he pitched a perfect game.
It was on December 9th 2006 in the Mexican Pacific Winter League. Soria was on the mound against the Naranjeros de Hermosillo, one of the league’s most historically successful teams, with 16 titles under their belt. His perfect game was only the third ever in the MXPW. Soria could have let the fame go to his head, but then he wouldn’t have continued to live out a baseball dream.
Soria was scooped out of the Padres organization by the Royals in the 2006 Rule 5 Draft, and was pitching in the majors a year later. He posted 17 saves and an ERA of 2.48. He continued the run into the next season, posting 13 straight saves to open 2008, breaking the club record of 11 held by Al Hrabosky (aka the Mad Hungarian). In 35 outings, opponents scored on Soria twice.
He was invited to the 2008 All Star Game at the age of 24 and earned himself a hefty 3-year, $8.5 million extension to his contract from the Royals.
In 2010, Soria picked up his 100th save of his career and went 43-for-46 in opportunities on the year. He was invited back for his second All-Star appearance.
Come 2011, something was a little different. In 12 of his first save attempts, Soria blew five of them. After fumbling two in a row, he briefly lost his closer role to Aaron Crow at the end of May, and he finished the year with an ERA over 4.00 — more than the previous two years combined. Come spring training in 2012, he couldn’t shake a nagging discomfort in his elbow. What the doctors found was the news every pitcher dreads. Soria underwent Tommy John surgery that spring and was forced to miss the entirety of the 2012 season. On October 31st 2013, the Royals declined his option and Soria became a free agent.
2012 was not the first time he’d undergone the devastating surgery — Soria had the procedure done nine years previous, in 2003, when he was only 19 years old.
He wasn’t about to come back from the devastating surgery of his youth just to be stopped by it again. In 2015, while pitching for the Detroit Tigers, he recorded his 200th career save, five long years after his first hundred.
He spent the next few years bouncing from team to team, including two years back on the Royals just after they won their second-ever World Series title. After declining a mutual option with the Brewers, Soria became a free agent again on October 30th, 2018.
Less than two months later, the A’s picked up the 34-year-old Mexico native with a two-year, $15 million deal, knowing Soria had the stuff to bolster their bullpen after losing some arms in the offseason.
Soria is proud of his heritage. After playing in the Mexican Winter League and the Mexican Baseball League (“Liga Mexicana de Béisbol”) as a youngster, he was given the honor of representing Mexico in the World Baseball Classic in 2017. The previous tournament, Soria had been recovering from his Tommy John surgery and wasn’t able to represent, so being healthy the next time around was huge for him. Soria is also a big fan of Selección Nacional de México (the Mexican National soccer team).
Early in his career, he was known to fans as “The Mexecutioner.” In 2011, Soria publicly asked that fans come up with a nickname with less violence and more promotion of peace in his homeland.