Washington Nationals rookie catcher Jhonatan Solano may have the oddest story in Major League Baseball as to how he caught his big break.
Solano grew up in Colombia with his younger brother Donovan, who now plays for the Miami Marlins. Jhonatan was unable to get enough exposure as an up-and-coming baseball player in his home country, so he had to go to neighboring Venezuela to get noticed. But according to the Washington Nationals' media guide, he used a creative method to get to the tryout:
… signed with Nationals out of a tryout camp in Venezuela in Sept. of 2005, but only after crossing the border from native Colombia in an onion truck.
As a result, Jhonatan earned the nickname "Onion." He was then cultivated in the Washington Nationals' farm system for the next seven years. He was ripening nicely in Triple-A Syracuse when he was suddenly called up to the major leagues earlier this season.
Fellow minor leaguer Sandy Leon had debuted on May 14th to back up Jesus Flores, who was now the starting catcher after the season-ending knee injury suffered by Wilson Ramos on May 12th. But then Leon himself suffered an injury in his major league debut. The Nationals had to dip into the minor leagues once again.
So Jhonatan Solano made his major league debut on May 29th in Miami, playing against his brother's Marlins. In fact, the brothers' parents were both there for the duration of the series, and each parent alternated between wearing a Nationals and Marlins jersey to support their two sons.
Since that day, Solano has looked like an old pro. He is currently hitting .393 in 28 at-bats through nine games. He has two home runs, six RBI and a 1.128 OPS.
And Jhonatan can field his position, too. He has a 1.000 fielding percentage in 49 total chances with nine assists and only two passed balls. Plus, he has turned two double plays and thrown out 43 percent of potential base stealers.
Jhonatan Solano has already impressed at the major league level. But the Washington Nationals have only just begun to peel away the layers of this onion.