Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.I am finishing my list of my personal Padres awards with one that doesn't exist in the National League. Yangervis Solarte earned a special spot with me this season.Only months separated from the loss of his wife
Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.
I am finishing my list of my personal Padres awards with one that doesn't exist in the National League. Yangervis Solarte earned a special spot with me this season.
Only months separated from the loss of his wife Yuliett due to cancer, Solarte arrived in Spring Training "with a passion to play the game I love" and served as a leader on and off the field during the 2017 season, while accepting new challenges in both his personal and playing life.
I'm giving Solarte my own "Most Inspirational Padre Award" for 2017.
And I'm not alone.
Last winter, Solarte was named the 18th winner of the Tony Conigliaro Award, which goes annually to the "Major League player who has overcome adversity through the attributes of spirit, determination and courage that were the trademarks of Tony C."
Seldom has there been a more deserving recipient than Solarte.
And he was even stronger in 2017.
Not only did he hit .255 with 18 homers and 64 RBIs despite missing 33 games in the middle of the season with a left oblique strain, Solarte accepted the challenge of moving to shortstop after Erick Aybar was injured.
He did it with a smile and enthusiasm that was infectious with teammates. The Solarte "alligator" clap, coupled with a huge grin, became a Padres trademark.
"Soly loves playing the game," Padres manager Andy Green said during the season. "Everyone around him sees that and it resonates with his teammates. Plus, he's one of those rare players who eagerly accepts every challenge with a smile. He's comfortable with challenges because he knows he's going to give it all he has."
All while raising three young daughters.
A 30-year-old Venezuelan, Solarte completed his third full season with the Padres after coming from the New York Yankees in a July 22, 2014, trade for third baseman Chase Headley.
With the Padres, Solarte has been a starter at second and third as well as part-time starter at short and a backup at first.
"If I told him he'd be playing center field tonight, he'd be out there with a smile even though he'd never played the position," Green said this summer. "He's a rare spirit."
Despite missing 33 games on the disabled list and spending 28 games out of his comfort zone at short, Solarte set a career high in homers in 2017.
In four-plus seasons with the Padres, Solarte has hit .270 with 51 homers and 215 RBIs. He has a .326 on-base percentage as a Padre with a .424 slugging percentage for a .750 OPS.
But numbers alone don't capture the essence of Yangervis Solarte.
He is an inspiration.