Hard work paying off for Sheepshead Bay freshman
Matt Solano started playing baseball when he was 7 years old. He and his father would head to the park where his dad would hit about 200 ground balls at him per day. Solano didn’t understand it at first, and would come home with bruises on his shins, but seven years later, he’s starting to see that his early efforts paid off.
Solano is currently leading every Public School Athletic League team from Brooklyn at every level with a .692 average and 27 hits and is ranked second in both categories in all of New York City. And he’s just a freshman.
“He’s found a few holes,” his father Robert Solano said modestly. “Honestly, we didn’t even know how much playing time he would get this year, and he’s really taken advantage of it. He’s gotten some hits off of some big boys, too.”
Solano, who lives in Canarsie, was expected to attend Madison High School this year, where he would likely be on the junior varsity team or riding a bench with the varsity team. Instead, there was a mix-up with his application, and now he’s starting on Sheepshead Bay.
“I was disappointed that I wouldn’t play at Madison at first, but I am playing a lot more here and I realize that this is a good opportunity for me,” Solano said. “I just have to continue to play hard, do whatever my team needs and make the most of it.”
Sheepshead Bay’s coach Scott Slater saw right away that Solano was a confident player with good hands. He didn’t know how good he could be at the plate early on, as the team was limited to indoor practices due to the weather. But as soon as he stepped out onto the field, Slater knew that Solano might be somebody special.
“He really knows what he’s doing at the plate,” Slater said. “He has quick hands and a lot of confidence. He’s locked in every time up. Every time he comes up, if there are runners on base, I feel confident that he can drive them in. This is a freshman we’re talking about. The sky’s the limit with him.”
In addition to playing for Sheepshead Bay, Solano plays for travel teams and practices with his dad away from the field on regular basis. A typical week for Solano includes batting practice in the cage on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, two games on Saturday, two on Sunday and then games and practices with Sheepshead Bay throughout the week.
His season with Sheepshead Bay hasn’t been easy. The Sharks are a young team and are currently sitting in last place in the Brooklyn A South division with a 1-11 record. A natural shortstop, Solano has been forced to pitch on a team with only two seniors and no juniors. It’s not something he likes, but he appreciates that it’s helping him to better handle adversity.
“It’s a lot of work and, honestly, I didn’t always see the point,” Solano said. “I thought my dad was just being hard on me, but now I see it paying off and realize that my dad just wants me to be the best. Hopefully I can get a scholarship out of this because it’s been a lot of hard work and that would make it all worth it.”