Solano brothers enjoy reunion in Majors
Marlins utility man, Nats catcher 12th, 13th Colombian players
Washington called up catcher Jhonatan Solano from Triple-A Syracuse, which meant during Tuesday night's game, he would be staring across the field at his brother, Donovan, a utility player for the Marlins, in the home dugout. Donovan was selected by the Marlins on May 20, and he became just the 12th Colombian-born player in big league history. Jhonatan, who is two years older, is No. 13.
"It's a monumental day for the Solano family," Jhonatan said.
"Today, it's a historic day, for my family, for my city," Donovan added.
Joining them near the visitors' dugout before the game were their parents, Luis Solano and Myriam Preciado, who flew in from Baranquilla, Colombia, to see their sons play. It marked the fourth visit to the United States for Preciado, who isn't a fan of flying, Donovan said, and just the second one for Luis, a retired electrician and former baseball player back in Colombia. Both have been to Minor League games to watch their sons, but Tuesday was their first experience in a big league park.
The two hopped on the earliest flight they could get out of Colombia and arrived at the park in time to see Donovan and Jhonatan participate in batting practice. Marlins hitting coach Eduardo Perez even invited them to get a look directly behind home plate while Donovan took cuts. The proud parents ducked under a yellow rope near the clay encircling the field and stepped behind the batting cage, both beaming with joy.
Preciado, a nurse, sported a black Marlins jersey with the name Solano stitched on the back, while Luis wore a white Nationals jersey. Neither wanted to play favorites, and said they will alternate jerseys for Wednesday's series finale.
The four congregated on the field, caught up with each other and posed for photos -- just like any other family reunion. The only person missing was Maria Jose, Donovan and Jhonatan's sister, who was unable to get a visa in time and whose passport didn't arrive until Tuesday. Maria had plans for a custom-made jersey split right down the middle with the Marlins on one half and the Nationals on the other half, and the name Solano across the back.
"She's very sad because she couldn't see her brothers," Preciado said.
While Maria was disappointed she couldn't make the trip, she wasn't the only one who expressed emotion over the prospect of the two Solanos playing against each other.
The first call Donovan made after he was selected was to Jhonatan. Nine days later, Jhonatan returned the favor, but his little brother had already heard the good news. When Donovan picked up Jhonatan from the airport Monday, Jhonatan said the two shed a few tears of joy.
Preciado hopes for a similar display if Donovan gets the opportunity to come to the batter's box while Jhonatan is behind the plate.
"I believe that sports, in general, unite countries," Preciado said. "I spoke with both of them that if they ever play each other and go up to bat that they would be able to hug and show that type of emotion. They said they would try to see what they can do."
That opportunity never presented itself Tuesday, but Jhonatan did make his big league debut with a pinch-hit appearance with two outs in the ninth. Facing Marlins closer Heath Bell, Jhonatan dug in -- with his mom wildly cheering on in her Marlins jersey from the stands -- and smacked an 0-2 pitch to right field for a double.
Just like his little brother five days earlier, Jhonatan wound up with a hit in his first big-league at-bat. Unlike Donovan, though, Jhonatan's first hit was for extra bases. Jhonatan said both first-hit balls were being encased and given to his parents.
"I can't believe that," Jhonatan said. "Of course everybody wants a hit [in their first at-bat], so I feel happy. I don't know what else to say."