Nick Solak Called-Up to the Majors
With 27 home runs and an OPS just shy of 900 across 115 minor league games in 2019, Naperville North product Nick Solak was due for a September call-up to the major leagues
Jim: But when you looked at the schedule, we were going to miss him. Because that White Sox series actually came early.
Jim Chiapetta is now the varsity baseball coach at North, but was Solak’s freshman coach in 2010. Solak was called up by the Texas Rangers on August 19th, 2019 and crushed the baseball from the get-go.
Nick: I get added to the roster, I play both games. First hit in the first game, first homer in the second game. A walk off error by Pujols, but a ball I smoked down the line.
It was a memorable first day in the bigs, but nothing like his first time on the road.
Naperville North Baseball Visits Solak
Nick: My first road trip was to Chicago against the White Sox and… I grew up a White Sox fan… had a ton of family and friends, just everyone from growing up came out and watched and it was pretty cool.
Along with former Huskies Head Coach, Carl Hunckler, Chiapetta and a huge crew of friends and family flocked to the south side to watch the former prep-star.
Jim: They had a couple of injuries (with the Rangers) and he got called up early and we all jumped on the opportunity. Hunckler got in touch with him and we showed up and it was a beautiful day, got there for BP… being there as a staff, coaches that had him from the second he stepped foot in Naperville North until the time he left. It was special for all of us and I’m sure it was special for Nick as well.
Nick: I think some fans there were surprised when I walked to the plate and they didn’t really understand what was going on. And I’m getting a huge ovation from the fans down the first base line.
Solak collected three hits and a pair of walks against the team he grew up cheering for.
In 33 games to close the season, Solak hammered the ball. He finished with 5 homers, a .293 average and .391 on base percentage. That momentum brought him on the doorstep of a potentially full season in the majors.
MLB Goes on Hiatus
Jim: We got the MLB Network and they were on late from spring training so I would DVR them so when my son would wake up in the morning he could pop that on. I think we were all looking forward to Nick extending what he did last season.
Nick: Going into camp I was really excited about the possibility of making the opening day roster this year and earning that spot. I worked really hard this off-season. I kind of changed my routine a little bit and focused on third base, which I’ve never really played much before.
And then… in the blink of an eye… spring training was canceled. Major League Baseball remains in limbo, with the 2020 season delayed indefinitely.
Though players were sent home, Solak has kept busy. In November 2019, he proposed to his girlfriend, Roxanne. The two are now in Houston planning their wedding while keeping the slugger ready for the season.
Nick: She’s taken the reigns; she’s done a lot of the work. I can help by picking some registry work. A lot of it we tried to get done before I left for the season.
Nick: We’ll go down to the field and she’ll toss me balls, I’ll throw them into the fence. She’ll take the tennis racquet and she’ll hit ground balls with the tennis racquet.
While Solak is smoking wiffle balls and fielding tennis balls, his time in the bigs is coming. Whenever the 2020 does begin, he’ll join fellow Naperville native Nicky Lopez in representing the area. Solak for the Rangers, Lopez for the Royals. For their former coaches, it’s simply a dream come true.
Jim: Maybe a little bit here and there but you see a kid that you had a little bit of a part in and here is at the highest level. And not only performing but carrying himself like a true professional.
Reporting for Sports Story Sunday, I’m Kevin Jackman