Click photo to enlarge
Piedra Vista's Justin Solomon (9) greets his teammates in the dugout during the 2012 4A state championship game at Isotopes Park on May 12 in Albuquerque.
The baseball community never stops giving back.

Justin Solomon and his family have found that to be true ever since he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in July 2011. After nearly a year of treatment and the peaks and valleys that coincide with battling cancer, Solomon rejoiced in what he called the greatest moment of his life: being drafted in the 35th round by the Colorado Rockies in the MLB First Year Player Draft on Wednesday.

"This is probably the biggest thing that has ever happened to me. When I got cancer, I thought baseball was done for me. It is amazing how much it has still been apart of my life," Solomon said Wednesday from North Carolina, where he is visiting his ailing grandfather. "It really surprised me to find out the Rockies drafted me.”

Solomon, who graduated from Piedra Vista in May, was drafted thanks to the influence of the Rockies' Four Corners scout, Chris Forbes, who has waged his own battle against leukemia.

"I gravitate toward people like Justin," Forbes said. "Drafting him was a no-brainer for us. Baseball is a game about statistics and wins and losses, but this is bigger than that. This is an opportunity to lay a foundation for a kid. This is something he can hold onto forever. He can always say 'I was a 35th rounder with the Rockies in 2012.' Baseball is a competitive business, but I will sleep good tonight knowing we drafted Justin.



Solomon's cancer is in remission, but he continues to battle complications that have arisen from his long battle against the disease.

Justin's mother, Jennifer, said she never expected to see her son experience such a rewarding moment after almost a year of standing beside his hospital bed in Houston.

"When all of this first happened, the outburst of support from the baseball community in Farmington and across the state surprised me," Jennifer said. "Then I put up the 'Prayers for Justin' Facebook page and we started hearing from pro players. Every time it just kind of knocked me back a bit. I was so floored at the way they reached out to Justin and took care of him.

"This is another example of that. It means the world to us. I could not possibly articulate the feelings and emotions we have and the gratitude I have. Seeing Justin the way he was when he saw he was drafted, I wish I somehow had it on video or could just bottle it up, because it meant everything to him. Seeing him like that was indescribable."

The baseball community can be described a a fraternity, and it always takes care of its own, Forbes said.
Forbes also sees similarities between battling cancer and playing the game.

"Playing the game of baseball has led Justin into the mentality he has to fight cancer. You face adversity in baseball. Doubt comes in at times, but there is always another at-bat, another inning and another pitch," Forbes said. "We are talking about a kid who missed out on a state title and finishing his high school career with the kids he played with at a dominant program at PV. We don't ask for cancer, but we got it. We can play the victim or rise up and take adversity as an asset. This will make him a better man, husband, brother and son. I promised him this battle will make him a better person."

Solomon will have a chance to visit Coors Field when he returns home from North Carolina and another trip to his doctors in Houston.

He will have a chance to meet Rockies players, and he is especially looking forward to seeing rookie third baseman Jordan Pacheco again.

"Pacheco has really supported me, and I am a big fan of him and the rest of the Rockies," Solomon said.
Pacheco, a 2007 ninth-round pick of the Rockies who graduated La Cueva High in Albuquerque before playing for the University of New Mexico, was kept in the loop by Forbes about the prospect of the team symbolically drafting Solomon in the late rounds.

"I talked to Pacheco about it last week and let him know what we were thinking. I was bugging the guys to death about it in the draft room," Forbes said. "I was dead-set on doing my best to draft him without tipping his mom off, either."

Solomon's year has been full of surprises. From being diagnosed with cancer, to surprising the entire community of Farmington by appearing at the annual Knothole Day rivalry game between Farmington and Piedra Vista, to graduating and finally being one of 1,238 players drafted by a Major League team.

“I wasn't following the draft at all and I started getting a bunch of texts and calls from my friends saying congratulations. I thought they were messing with me,” Solomon said. “When I saw my name online, it was the coolest."

He hopes this year brings more stability, but knows it will be hard for anything to match the magical moments baseball has provided him even when his ability to play the game was taken away.