The Puerto Rican Sports Hall of Fame will induct the prominent Puerto Rican superstar Hector Picky Soto, after only two years since he hung up his shoes into the class of 2019. Should this surprise us? No! Soto was one of the most influential figures in the history of Puerto Rican volleyball players. As a player, Soto captured 3 Central American & Caribean Games gold medals with the Puerto Rico National Team. He achieved the unimaginable by being named the top scorer of the 2006 FIVB World Championship (271 pts) and the 2007 FIVB World Cup (243 pts). As a matter of fact, those 271 points still stand as a record for most scored points in an FIVB World Championship. He had an illustrious career as a professional player in Puerto Rico’s LSVM league, where he also holds the All-Time record for most scored points. Soto played all over the world in places like Korea, Russia, Japan, Tunisia and so on capturing various league titles. As a collegiate player, Picky Soto set the bar high by setting the total kills record at the University of Fort Wayne which stands to this day. He recorded 2,139 kills (1st) with an average of 6.51 attacks per set. Does his legacy go beyond medals and records? Yes.
I remember going to some games with my dad and hearing the expression: “It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Sotoman.” Cheesy? Maybe, but once you witness his playing live, it made complete sense. We are talking about a player whose physical attributes outshined those around him. His ability to score, understand the court and above all his leaping ability made him cement his legacy as one of the best players to play in Puerto Rico. Buyin Camacho even dared to call him ‘The Astronaut’ as he remained shook with Soto’s jump while narrating a game. Something that really stood out was his ability to adapt. In the later years of his career, Soto started playing as an outside hitter. He was no longer the 1999 Caribes de San Sebastian Soto who could hit over the block, but he became a reliable piece for any team who would sign him. He was a natural. Soto showed he could pass and impact the game in all of its aspects, helping the Capitanes de Arecibo win a title in 2014 as an outside hitter. When you put things into perspective, Soto became that player which we all wanted to relate to. It became just as iconic as when you throw a little ball of paper into a trash can and yell: Kobe! He was the reason kids wanted to wear #12 on their jersey. He was the reason we all pretended to be announcers and called his name every time one of our friends when up to hit a ball.
There is one event that will forever remain in my head as one of the fondest memories I have of Soto as a player. Back in 2010, I sat down in front of the TV to witness what could be a gold medal in the Central American and Caribbean Games for Puerto Rico when facing Venezuela in the finals. Venezuela had the chance to put an end to my illusion of a gold medal, yet Puerto Rico battled it out and ended winning a 5th set 20–18. The crowd went wild, while the players shook that beautiful Puerto Rican flag celebrating. Once it was all done, Hector Picky Soto got named MVP. An epic game with a beautiful ending with Picky being the spotlight of it all. He was the man who atleast that night made the world know that Puerto Ricans could play high-level volleyball.
One thing remains on my mind after spending the weekend glorifying past talents and recognizing their impact on the sport of volleyball around the rooms of the Holyoke International Hall of Fame with The SpikeNet. Hector Picky Soto has earned a spot amongst those legends. His resume and impact on the game have earned him a shot at being considered for a future induction down in Holyoke. Could he be the first Puerto Rican to earn such a recognition? Only time will tell. For now, we know his legacy will live on forever in the Puerto Rican Sports Hall of Fame.
- 1999 Puerto Rican League “Final Series Most Valuable Player”
- 2002 Puerto Rican League “Best Scorer”
- 2006 Inducted to the University of Indiana — Ft. Wayne Hall of Fame
- 2006 Central American & Caribbean Games “MVP”
- 2006 Central American & Caribbean Games “Best Scorer”
- 2006 FIVB World Championship “Best Scorer”
- 2007 Pan American Games “Best Scorer”
- 2007 NORCECA Championship “Best Scorer”
- 2007 FIVB World Cup “Best Scorer”
- 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games “Most Valuable Player”
- 2012/13 Puerto Rican League “All-Star”
- 2013/14 Puerto Rican League “All-Star”
- 1999 Puerto Rican League-Champion, with Caribes de San Sebastián
- 2000–01 Tunisian Cup- Runner-Up, with Club Sportif Sfaxien
- 2000–01 Tunisian League-Runner-Up, with Club Sportif Sfaxien
- 2001 African Volleyball Clubs Champions Championship- Runner-Up, with Club Sportif Sfaxien
- 2002 Belgium League-Champion, with Noliko Maaseik
- 2002 Belgium Cup-Champion, with Noliko Maaseik
- 2004–05 Italian A2 Championship Champion-Champion, with Terra Sarda Cagliari
- 2010–11 Korean V-League- Bronze medal, with Hyundai Capital Skywalkers
- 2012–13 Puerto Rican League- Champion, with Capitanes de Arecibo
- 2013–14 Puerto Rican League- Runner-Up, with Capitanes de Arecibo
- 2014 Puerto Rican League-Champion, with Capitanes de Arecibo
- 2015 Puerto Rican League- Bronze medal, with Capitanes de Arecibo
- 2016–17 Puerto Rican League-Champion, with Mets de Guaynabo