Despite the San Diego Padres falling short of the playoffs this year, they sure made the season memorable for us. From game-winning bombs to spectacular catches in the outfield, they are our beloved team and always will be.
With the off-season in full force and trades being completed here and there, the Padres very own third baseman, Yangervis Solarte, has been selected as the 18th winner of the Tony Conigliaro Award. This award is given annually to a player who has “overcome adversity through the attributes of spirit, determination and courage that were trademarks of Tony C.”
Solarte took time away from the team in July for four days to be by his wife, Yuliett’s side, and again he left when her conditioned worsened in mid-September. His wife ultimately passed away on Sept. 17 after a battle with cancer. The baseball community was right there for the Solarte family. The Padres organization, along with others, hung a jersey in the name of “Yuliett” on the back of the dugout, to honor her.
The day after her passing, Adam Rosales replaced Solarte in the lineup and hit a homer, and after sprinting around the bases as he always does, mimicked Solarte’s signature alligator clap at home plate. It was a wonderful sight to see.
He played his heart out, day in and day out. Win or lose, he played for the love of the game and showed it each time he took the field. It is only right for him to receive the award. His courage sparked a smile through it all.
A week after her passing, Solarte returned to the club and received a beautiful welcome home. He came into the game as a pinch hitter, singled to left field, and was given a standing ovation, not just for him, but for the whole family. Upon his return, he had a 14-game hitting streak, the longest by a Padres player all season. He finished the season with a career-high batting average of .286, with 15 homers and 71 RBI.
Solarte was nominated by the Padres’ community relations department and received 11 first place votes. The award recipient is chosen by a committee of media members, MLB executives, Red Sox officials, and the Conigliaro family.
The award is named after Tony Conigliaro, who was an extraordinary individual to watch back in the 1960s. Many won’t forget his first at bat at Fenway Park when he hit a home run, and a year later he became the youngest player to lead his league in home runs with 32. He had a heck of a career, but retired in 1971 when his impaired vision led him to it. He was hit in the eye by a fastball and was never the same. In 1982, he suffered a heart attack and passed away at the age of 45.
The award will be presented to Solarte at the 78th Boston Baseball Writers’ dinner on Jan 19.
Earlier this month there were possible trade rumors of Solarte going to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but that’s been out of the equation for a while now since they re-signed Justin Turner. Many Padres fans want him back, as do I. I’d love for him to be in a Padres uniform again as he is a pretty high-valued player for the team.