Through the first week of baseball, the attention of Blue Jays fans hasn’t really been on the fact that they split the opening series vs New York or that they’re over .500 for what seems like the first time in centuries. It hasn’t been Stroman, Sanchez, or their exaggerated feud, it’s been infielder Yangervis Solarte and the fun he’s brought to the team and Blue Jays fans online.
On paper, Solarte was a shrewd acquisition made by the Toronto Blue Jays brain trust in an attempt to bridge the gap to when the kids become major leaguers in 2020 while also trying to stay somewhat competitive in the interim. The 30-year-old can play all over the infield, switch hit, or come off the bench without issue. It was a smart transaction; he’s a valuable bench piece for any club that wants to compete.
On the field, Solarte might be much more than that. He’s a laughing, dancing, bat dropping Blue Jay that seems to enjoy playing the game as much as we love watching it. It’s a breath of fresh air from the norm in this sport, where, like I said a few days ago, a 95 MPH fastball near your dome is often the punishment for hurting somebody’s feelings showing up your opponent. He’s been a reminder that, just like in life, we sometimes take ourselves way too seriously.
But this isn’t a long-winded rant about toxic masculinity, baseball culture, or anything like that. It’s about legitimately loving what you do. Sure, easy for him to do, right? He’s living out our dreams playing in the Show and collecting the cheques that go along with it. But that’s the point. Yangervis Solarte lives his life on the diamond like he’s lucky enough to play a kid’s game for a living, because he is.
Blue Jays fans love flair. We know that. Jose Bautista became a star in Toronto with his skill and a legend with the “so what, fuck you” attitude he played the game with. And although Solarte – a guy whose passion for the game is shown with his sheer jubilation rather than a shit-inducing glare and aggressive celebration – is not on King Joey’s level as a player, it’s still so great to see somebody play with as much fire as he does.
From a piece back in October by Padres beat writer Bill Center for MLB.com:
“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.”
Which leads me to this: there’s something that Blue Jays fans might not know about Solarte. In September of 2016, his wife Yuliette passed away after a battle with cancer, leaving him with their three daughters. This is a guy that had life kick the shit out of him, and yet, he still perseveres.
Remember what he did after hitting that 455-foot bomb against the Yankees? No, not the bat drop.
After rounding third base in his home run trot, Solarte jumped in the air, with one finger pointing to the sky and came down with an emphatic clap. It turns out it’s called the alligator clap, and it’s for his daughters, he told Sporting News’ Jenn Smith:
“It’s about my babies. It’s called the ‘alligator clap’,” offered Solarte. “My babies tell me if I get a home run that I jump and clap like an alligator. So, I put that three years ago. I do that for my babies.”
Nothing in this life is certain. Solarte spends every second on a baseball field like he’s never going to suit up for another game, and that’s why he’s a fucking treasure. Guys like Prince Fielder and Jose Fernandez, both Hall of Fame calibre players that had the most amount of fun that they could, saw their careers come to a tragic end in 2016. The circumstances were different, but the game is worse without those two. More players – hell, more people – need to try to live their life with the same energy as those three men.
This was initially supposed to be a short post with a couple gifs of him dancing, but watching Solarte the past week has been a blast. The dude genuinely is a fan of the sport and his teammates, even celebrating their successes more than his own.
I mean, there’s this:
Yangervis Solarte on Kevin Pillar's steal of home. “To be honest, I liked it more than my homer" #BlueJays— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) March 31, 2018
Look at his reaction to it!
We can’t forget the dinger dances.
Confirmed: Solarte is the best. pic.twitter.com/PgOY5IzaZv— Ian Hunter (@BlueJayHunter) April 3, 2018
And his “whylin out in the dugout for no reason” dance.
When you're drunk around sober people pic.twitter.com/Z4BccjpZ0w— Richard Lee-Sam (@RLeesam) April 1, 2018
Of course, there’s going to be some old toad that can’t handle somebody being this genuinely happy, for whatever reason, but I’m sure his teammates – past and present – appreciate the joy that Solarte brings them.
Here’s a gem from last season:
Let him skip the Mariners series in August and have him hit up Caribana. It’ll be life changing for him. Besides, he already walks out to this banger.
For the love of God, no matter what happens this season, please protect this fucking man.
Don't worry, guys, we've got that new Solarte GIF coming.— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) April 3, 2018
In the meantime... it's 3-2 for the home side! pic.twitter.com/C791OAPqvz