MIAMI -- Imagine the thoughts racing through Jhonatan Solano's mind as he stepped to the plate last night.
Twenty-four hours prior, he learned he was being called up by the Nationals, who were playing in Miami, where his brother Donovan happened to have been called up by the Marlins nine days earlier. Now the 26-year-old catcher was being summoned by manager Davey Johnson to pinch-hit with two outs in the top of the ninth against All-Star closer Heath Bell. With his brother watching from the other dugout. And with his parents (who flew in from Colombia earlier in the day to attend their first major-league game) watching from the stands.
Good luck dealing with all that, kid.
"Yeah, you know, it's a little pressure," Solano would say later. "There's a lot of people in the stadium, all my family here, all together. But I breathed like 50 times. Hopefully I get a hit."
He did get a hit. A double down the right-field line. On an 0-2 count. To keep the game alive for the Nationals.
"I pray on that," he said. "I say: 'God, I don't want to be the last out to the game.' He heard my prayer and he give me double. That's good."
It's all good right now for the Solano family, which last night experienced the thrill of a lifetime. Two sons on the same major-league field, each having been summoned to make their debuts in the span of nine days.
"Super-happy," mother Myriam Preciado, wearing a Marlins jersey, said before the game through an interpreter.
"We weren't expecting it," father Luis Solano, wearing a Nationals jersey added.
The path each Solano brother took to reach the big leagues was anything but conventional. Growing up in Colombia, a nation that until last week had produced only 11 major-league ballplayers, opportunities were extremely limited. Luis, though, had been a pitcher and infielder before an injury derailed his career, so he passed along his love for the game to his sons.
Even so, it's difficult for Colombian players to get noticed by scouts. Thus, a teenaged Jhonatan Solano found himself traveling across the border to Venezuela for a tryout, in a van full of passengers lugging produce (including one woman with a tied-up pig).
Solano was seated next to a heap of onions. To this day, teammates and coaches refer to him by the nickname "cebolla" (Spanish for "onion.")
Solano was signed by the Nationals, but his trek to the big leagues was a long one. He spent seven years in the minors, rooming with Ian Desmond at both Class AA and Class AAA in 2009. He was sent back to Class AA in 2010, then returned to Class AAA last season.
Added to the Nationals' 40-man roster over the winter so he couldn't be lost via the Rule 5 draft, Solano was in big-league camp this spring but stood no realistic chance of heading north with the club. And there was little reason to believe he'd be called upon at any point, not with Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores in Washington, veteran Carlos Maldonado at Syracuse and touted prospect Sandy Leon at Harrisburg.
But then those fellow catchers started dropping like flies. Ramos tore his ACL and was done for the season. Leon suffered a bad ankle sprain four innings into his big-league debut. And then Sunday night, Flores tweaked his hamstring, sidelining him for at least a couple of days.
Thus the call finally was placed to Solano to get down to Miami as quickly as possible.
"When you sign, your first goal is to make it to the big leagues," said Solano, who only returned in the last week from his own stint on the DL due to a neck injury. "But when they put me on the 40-man roster last year it was exciting. When they called me Monday ... wow, I can't believe that."
Neither could Donovan, his younger brother who spent eight seasons in the minors (most in the Cardinals organization) before getting called up by the Marlins last week. A natural infielder who can play anywhere on the field (aside from, ironically, catcher), Donovan Solano debuted for Miami on May 22 and singled in his first career at-bat.
His parents, however, weren't there to see it in person. Myriam has always had a fear of flying, so she and Luis stayed at home. That was, until they learned their other son had also been promoted to the majors.
"With that news, she didn't want to stay home," Donovan said.
Luis and Myriam arrived Tuesday afternoon. Jhonatan had arrived the night before, flying in from Syracuse, greeted at the Miami airport by none other than his brother and fellow major leaguer.
The two embraced and shed a few tears.
"Hey, bro," Donovan told Jhonatan. "We did it."