Breaking News
More () »

Teammates, coaches reflect on life of fallen Olympia baseball player

16-year-old Solomon Gardner left a significant impact on those in his community.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The baseball community in Olympia is mourning the death of a baseball stand-out. 

The family of 16-year-old Solomon Gardner tells KING 5 the teen attempted suicide, was hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury and then died three weeks later after contracting pneumonia. 

Gardner’s death is the second in one week that’s sparked a difficult but necessary conversation for coaches, athletes, and parents.

16-year-old Solomon Gardner, known simply as "Solo" to his teammates, played catcher for Olympia, and for select teams across the region.

“He just kind of brought together people in the dugout if we were losing he’d be the one to put in the extra energy to make sure people stayed together,” said Bailey New, a student at Timberline High School.

Gardner’s teammates say on the diamond, he was as tough as they come.

“He was scrappy, he was our catcher, and he blocked every ball…kid could play,” said Ian Draper, a Sophomore at Rogers High School.

“He was so fun, always joking always having a good time. He lit up the room every single time he came in,” added Reese Iverson, another Sophomore at Rogers.

Solo died last Sunday after a week’s long stay in the hospital. Derek Jennings coached Solo – and he also coached 17-year-old Reese Widman.

“I’ve had both boys since they were nine, ten years old,” Jennings said.

Widman’s family says the Steilacoom High School student took his own life one day before Solo died.

“These are the two that surprised everybody. These are the two that – had everything that a lot of kids want, in our eyes, but we didn’t know. We don’t,” Jennings added. “That’s the toughest part is really being a part of the entire journey and then knowing that it’s come to an abrupt end,” he continued.

In the wake of their deaths, these student-athletes want to make sure no topic is off-limits and want to ensure difficult conversations can be had.

“You have to know that you have to talk to somebody,” said Draper.

“I have that hope that I’m going to see him again and that I’m going to be God with someday,” said Iverson.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit Vibrant Emotional Health’s Safe Space for digital resources.


Before You Leave, Check This Out