San Diego Padres infielder Yangervis Solarte has been selected the winner of the 2016 Tony Conigliaro Award in voting conducted by a 20-person committee of media members, Major League Baseball executives, Red Sox officials, and members of the Conigliaro family.
The Conigliaro Award has been given every year since 1990 in memory of the former Red Sox outfielder, whose career was tragically shortened by a beanball in 1967 and whose life ended in 1990 at the age of 45. It is awarded to a "Major Leaguer who has overcome adversity through the attributes of spirit, determination and courage that were trademarks of Tony C."
Solarte received 11 first-place votes and a total of 62 points, based on a 5-3-1 points system for first-, second- and third-place votes. Phillies catcher Tommy Joseph, who had three first-place votes, and Royals catcher Salvador Perez tied for second with 23 points apiece. Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez (4), Pirates pitcher Ryan Vogelsong (1) and Indians pitcher Perci Garner (1) received the other first-place votes.
The award will be presented at the 78th Boston Baseball Writers' dinner co-hosted by the Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America and the Sports Museum. The dinner is scheduled to be held January 19, 2017, at the Marriott Copley Place.
Solarte was nominated for the award by the Padres' community relations department. In September, Solarte's 31-year-old wife and mother of their three children, Yuliett Pimentel Solarte, succumbed to cancer. Solarte left the club in July to spend four days at his wife's side in the midst of her battle, and again in September when her condition worsened. In his absence, Solarte's teammates hung a jersey for Yuliett in the dugout, and also showed their support in various ways on the field. A week after his wife's death, Solarte returned to the club, their three daughters and his mother accompanying him to San Diego.
"It feels a little different, and she's gone now, but at the end of the day those things are out of our control," Solarte said upon his return. "Those things are up to God and that was his decision. We fought. We were hoping that she'd be around for a little bit longer, but here we are."
"In the midst of a personally challenging year, and despite suffering the kind of loss that many of us can't fathom, Yangervis showed up to the ballpark each day and played his heart out, always supporting his teammates with a smile," said Padres Senior Vice President of Community and Military Affairs Tom Seidler. "The spirit, determination and courage he has displayed through personal tragedy could not be more representative of what the Tony Conigliaro Award is about."
Solarte earlier in the season also missed six weeks due to a hamstring injury. In 109 games, he batted .286 with a career-high 15 home runs and career-best 71 RBIs.
"He's had a heck of a year," Padres manager Andy Green said. "With what he's been through at home, his ability to still perform on a baseball field has honestly been astounding to me."
In honor of Yuliett, the Padres organization donated to-and encouraged players and fans to support-the San Diego-based nonprofit Friends of Scott. The Friends of Scott Foundation's mission is to help children with cancer and their families by providing the emotional and financial support needed to cope with this devastating disease.
A native of Swampscott, Mass., Conigliaro hit a home run in his first at-bat at Fenway Park in 1964 at only 19 years old. A year later, he became the youngest player to lead his league in home runs when he hit 32 in 1965, his second full season in the big leagues. He also became the youngest American League player to reach 100 home runs when he hit No. 100 at 22 years and 197 days old, just 65 days older than the major league record holder, Mel Ott (22 years, 132 days).
Conigliaro's early promise of greatness went unfulfilled after he was struck in the face by a pitch from Jack Hamilton of the California Angels on August 18, 1967. The pitch fractured his left cheekbone, dislocated his jaw, and severely damaged the retina in his left eye. It was the only hit batsman of the season for Hamilton, and just one of 13 in the span of an eight-year career.
Conigliaro missed all of the 1968 season, but returned to play two more years in Boston, hitting a career-high 36 home runs for the Sox in 1970, when he also drove in 116 runs. He was traded after the season to the Angels, but declining vision led him to announce his retirement in 1971. He attempted another comeback for the Red Sox in 1975, but ended his career after batting just .123 in 69 plate appearances.
Congliaro suffered a massive heart attack in 1982, and died eight years later at the age of 45.