Agua Fria High School graduate Sammy Solis has faced his share of adversity, but the Washington Nationals’ relief pitcher is feeling healthy and ready to help turn around his team’s season.
“We are off to a slower start than we had hoped,” says the lefty, who grew up in Litchfield Park. “We had a few big injuries that slowed us down a bit. But it’s the beginning of the season. It was way colder than we expected, too. That was a little factor in us losing a few ballgames. We were freezing our butts off.”
Solis, 29, is returning to town—and a warmer climate—Thursday, May 10, to Sunday, May 13, when the Nationals play the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.
Playing in Arizona to special to Solis, who honed his baseball skills in recreational leagues and Litchfield Park Little League, as well as at Agua Fria with coach Ed Wolfe.
“I was always on a really good team,” he says. “My best buddies and I went to Agua Fria together. Coach Wolfe allowed me to feel comfortable about playing baseball around my best buddies.”
Solis was drafted out of Agua Fria by the D-backs in 2007, but he and his parents decided he would attend the University of San Diego instead.
“I was just not ready for the majors,” he says. “I thank my parents every day because they told me it would be best to go to college. They left it up to me to decide. I was an 18-year-old, taken late in the draft. The signing bonus was not where I wanted it to be, either.”
He would have been sent to the minors, which he called “a grind.” He accepted the full-ride scholarship to the University of San Diego, where he was named All-West Coast Conference.
The Nationals selected Solis in the second round in 2010, and he reportedly received a $1 million signing bonus. He played for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League after the 2010 regular season. He won the championship, and returned after the 2011 season, only to injure his elbow and undergo Tommy John surgery. Solis has also suffered from knee and shoulder issues.
“I feel great,” he says. “The biggest thing right now is my command of all my pitches. I have 15 strikeouts and five walks. I’d like to change that.
“Health is the biggest thing in my career. I need to stay healthy to compete with some of the best, and I feel I can do that.”