When a player wins one of the major MLB awards, the Giants always give it out the following April before the second home game. They've had a lot of those ceremonies over the years, but few have been as unexpected as the one they held Saturday afternoon.
Two years after he opened a third consecutive season in Triple-A, Donovan Solano was handed a Silver Slugger Award, recognizing him as the best-hitting second baseman in the National League in 2020. Solano finished fifth in the league last season with a .326 batting average.
Before Saturday's game, manager Gabe Kapler said the award would be meaningful not just to Solano, but to the entire clubhouse.
"He's one of the hardest workers, he's always smiling, always accountable," Kapler said. "He doesn't get bent out of shape on a day like today when even though he's been one of our better hitters this season, he's not in the lineup. That accountability and good energy that he brings to the ballpark every day, coupled with the excellent performance, makes him among our easiest players to root for."
Solano was given the award by Kapler and the Giants' three hitting coaches, Donnie Ecker, Justin Viele and Dustin Lind. They joined the organization after the 2019 season, when Solano hit .330 in his return to the big leagues. After batting .326 last season, he has opened this year at .346.
According to Stats LLC, Solano's .329 average over the past three seasons is the third-highest all-time for a pitcher who was out of the big leagues for two seasons, trailing only Lefty O'Doul and Ted Williams. O'Doul, a San Francisco native, started his career as a pitcher before getting hurt, going back to the Pacific Coast League, and returning to MLB to win two batting titles. Williams served in the military early in his career.
Solano, 33, spent the 2017 season in Triple-A with the New York Yankees and repeated the level the next year with the Dodgers. He said Saturday's ceremony would be special because his family came to town to share in the accomplishment and receive the trophy.
"I'm going to put it away in a safe place and just kind of look at it and remember what a year I had last year," he said.