Jhonatan Solano: Fulfilling A Dream
A typical three-year-old is learning to read, to draw, or to be toilet trained. Jhonatan Solano was not a typical three-year-old.
“My father played baseball when he was young,” Solano said before yesterday’s doubleheader with Buffalo. “When I was three years old, he went with me first to the baseball field and I practiced with him.”
Baseball has run in the family for Solano. His younger brother Donovan, a 23-year-old infielder with the Cardinals’ AAA team, the Memphis Redbirds, has played professionally since 2005.
“I talk to him every day,” said Solano. “We have a good relationship…after brothers, we are good friends.”
To be in the United States and just one level away from the major leagues has been a lifelong goal for Solano.
“This life today, it was a dream. I remember when I was in high school; everybody asked me what kind of career I want to be in if I go to the university. I always remember I’d say I want to play in the big leagues. I started playing baseball when I was 3 years old and this was a dream – so I live the real dream now for me, for my father, for my brother, and I appreciate God for giving me the opportunity.”
But that dream could have been derailed at an early age. Solano had to travel from Colombia to Venezuela for a tryout with the Nationals, but relations between the two countries were strained at the time. With a visa, the travel wouldn’t have been easy. So Solano took an unusual journey.
“I was with eleven more players from Colombia and we crossed the line in a bus, like a truck. If you wanted to go in that way to Venezuela, if immigration caught you, maybe they’d put you in jail for a few days.”
He made it over successfully, and the tryout was a success – Solano signed with Washington and began his career as a catcher with the GCL Nationals in 2006. While Chiefs fans know Solano as a stellar defensive backstop, it wasn’t always that way. Solano was an infielder at a younger age, but a position change was soon in order.
“Before I got a contract for an organization, I was working in the infield. But I don’t run a lot, I am a slow guy,” Solano admitted while laughing. “Some coach told me if I’m interested, I’d change positions. Why not try and play catcher?”
The rest, as they say, has been history – except for a few cameo appearances at second base here and there. One game earlier this year at Norfolk, Randy Knorr’s lineup card featured Solano at second.
“I was surprised when I saw the lineup in Norfolk,” Solano said. “The first thing I did was call my wife and say ‘can you believe I’m playing second base today?’ I enjoyed that game.”
Solano played one more game at second before returning to full-time duty behind the plate. It’s there where he’s made his mark throughout his career in the minors – and with a career-best .309 average through 43 games, the final step in his dream is as close as it’s ever been.
For more on Jhonatan Solano, check out our audio conversation with him in our latest edition of Getting to Know The Chiefs. That’s at syracusechiefs.com – just click on the Inside Pitch podcast.