ALLENTOWN — Donovan Solano is blessed that the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders’ season hasn’t ended yet.
Because if the RailRiders didn’t make the Governors’ Cup playoffs, there’s a good chance he might have been home in Miami with his family right now, in the middle Hurricane Season and as Hurricane Irma heads towards his home state of Florida.
But instead, Solano was batting second and playing second base for the RailRiders Friday night in Game 2 of the Governors’ Cup playoffs first round against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
“It’s my first time. My first hurricane,” said Solano, who lives in Miami in the offseason. “Last year, the hurricane passed by West Palm Beach and the northern part of Florida. It missed Miami, so its’s going to be my first. I want to see, after everything, how everything’s going. I saw the islands in the Caribbeans and they were destroyed by everything. It’s very bad. It’s very, very dangerous. Everybody who lives over there thinks about it, thinks about the hurricane.
“I feel fear. I don’t know exactly what I’m feeling, but it’s not a good feeling. Just pray. Just pray. God has all the controls. I believe he can protect all the things — the house, the cars, everything like that. The most important is the life of the people still there.”
It’s been difficult to divide his attention between what’s happening back home in Miami and his duties with the RailRiders. However, Solano said it helps that his wife and child are with him and his brother went to Fort Meyers to be with his wife’s family. While he’s still in the path of the hurricane, it’s a little more comforting that his family is together and not separated.
“Everybody, be safe, be smart,” Solano said. “If you have a chance, go to another place. Go to another place and be with a group, not in your house by yourself. Stay with another guy. You can help each other and push at the same time for the same direction. It can help when you’re with another group.”
RailRiders utility man Jonathan Diaz returned to the team in time for Friday’s game.
Diaz was placed on the temporary inactive list on Wednesday when he went home to Dunedin to help his family move to Georgia and leave before the hurricane hits land this weekend. RailRiders manager Al Pedrique said he was glad to see the infielder back with the team and in the starting lineup Friday night.
Pedrique is in a similarly unique position to Diaz, with something pulling him from the game. He’s been dealing with uncertainty back home during Venezuela’s unrest involving its government.
“It’s not easy, but you have to be able to block it out and trust the fact that everything is going to be fine,” Pedrique said. “I’m sure that he’s feeling better that he was there and able to help them out. I’m sure getting back in the lineup, I’m hoping that will help him a little bit because that’s what helped me — to be on the field and manage and watch the guys play and get my mind off Venezuela for a little bit.
“Regardless it’s hard to ignore the situation.”
RailRiders catcher Kyle Higashioka made his return to the starting lineup Friday night after a two-game Minor League rehab stint with Low-A Staten Island.
After registering just one hit after the sixth inning in Thursday night’s extra-innings loss, Higashioka will be a welcomed addition back to the lineup. The veteran catcher batted sixth.
“We have another right-handed hitter in the lineup and that kind of gave me a chance to split up some of the left-handed hitters,” Pedrique said. “We have so many lefties in the lineup, but with Higgy back batting sixth, that’s going to help us a lot.”
It’s been a tumultuous few months for Higashioka, seeing the majority of his season wiped out by stints on the disabled list and then missing out on an opportunity to get called up to the New York Yankees with Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine having to serve suspensions. But now that he’s back, Higashioka’s looking forward to jumping right in the Governors’ Cup playoffs.
“I’m feeling good. I feel ready to go. I’m catching tonight, so I’m excited to be on the active roster,” Higashioka said. “It’s cool to come back into a playoff atmosphere. I think we started here last year in the playoffs too. Kind of a familiar feeling.”
Iverson to throw out 1st pitch
The RailRiders announced that Pro Basketball Hall of Famer Allen Iverson will be in attendance and throw out the first pitch at the Triple-A National Championship Game on Sept. 19 at PNC Field.
Joining Iverson will be Philadelphia 76ers great World B. Free and former Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons Jason Grimsley and Andy Ashby.
“Including two great 76ers and basketball ambassadors to the fanfest and the national championship game are great additions to our celebrity lineup,” RailRiders president Josh Olerud said. “The opportunity to not just see the two greats, but to meet them, will help us generate additional charitable funds to help us surpass our goal of raising over $250,000 for the event.”
Fans can purchase special $100 tickets for for the game. Each ticket will include two field reserve tickets for the national championship game, a signed photo of Iverson and World B. Free. There will only be 76 special $100 tickets available and they can be purchased by contacting Brian O’Shaughnessy at 570-558-4618 or [email protected]
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle