By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
OKOTOKS, Alta. _ Coach Allen Cox headed down the Alberta Red dugout to sit alongside infielder Cesar Valero.
“You OK? Sitting, watching all these games?” Cox asked.
Valero had an every day man on the Prairies had three at-bats during Alberta’s five games at Tournament 12 at the Rogers Centre in September.
“I’m fine, I get to come back next year,” said Valero referring to 2016. “And the year after that.
“The year after that and the year after that too.”
Yep, he can be a five-year man at T-12.
Valero was 13 in September when he made his T-12 debut as the youngest person in uniform inside the building -- next to the bat boys -- playing behind Kobe Hyland (Spruce Grove), the shortstop for the Canadian Junior National Team.
“I did get one hit in Toronto,” said Valero, now 14, as he sits inside the Okotoks Dawgs coaches’ office inside the Duvernay Fieldhouse.
One hit in three at-bats.
“He came up big for us,” said first baseman Soren Graverson (Calgary), “he singled to left centre on an 88-90 MPH fastball. We scored twice to tie BC in the final inning.
Alberta finished with an odd record of 1-1-3. There aren’t any ties in baseball -- unless there is a time limit on games of course.
Valero came to Canada with his mother, Maria Sanchez, and his father, also named Cesar, from Maracaibo, Venz. when he was five or six years of age.
His father works for the Canadian oil company Cenovus Energy Inc. as a mechanical engineer inspecting and fixing the pipe line.
The family moved to Calgary, next to Fort McMurray and then back to Calgary.
“I’m Canadian now,” said Valero wearing a light wind breaker on a day his team mates took infield on the turf field outside -- in January.
Finally, a Canuck shortstop with a future.
Adam Hall (London, Ont.) of the Great Lakes Canadians, who is eligible for the 2017 draft, is trying to beef up Canada’s drought at producing shortstops. Hall has already committed to Texas A&M Aggies.
Dawgs coach Lou Pote said Valero can “flat-out hit,” and told of Okotoks playing the undefeated Indiana Eagles in Clearwater.
Brett Platts (Albany, PEI) tripled, Valero followed with a double, Jake Libbus (Turner Valley, Alta.) doubled and Jack Martin (Okotoks, Alta.) doubled. That first-inning offensive outburst was enough to beat Indiana.
Want further evidence of Valero’s prowess with the bat? Well, Valero had 18 homers as a peewee with the Calgary Cubs.
“Aww, we were using metal bats and Edgemont Park isn’t that big,” he said.
Valero said he used to be fluent in Spanish and has attended five different schools -- four in Canada and one in Venezuela.
And he has a sense of humor.
“My father said to tell you that the reason I play so well is because of arepas, empanadas, cachapas, tequenos and mandocas my mother and father cook for us,” said Valero, who then explained all the Venezuelan delicacies with such detail we thought for a second we had a guest spot on CNN’s Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown ... where the host travels the world ... eating.
(OK, we admit it, we had help, a lot of help with the spelling of the food, the shortstop gets an assist.)
When in Toronto he said Sandy Alomar, Hall of Fame father of second baseman Robbie Alomar and Mario Diaz gave him pointers when he shared the same dug out.
Down 2-0 in the seventh Clayton Keyes (Calgary) singled, stole second and Kyle Prather (Tofield) walked. Keyes scored on a wild pitch and Valero singled against Indigo Diaz (North Vancouver, BC). With two out and the bases loaded Hyland walked to force in the tying run.
When the playing was finished he was able to see the Blue Jays and Marcus Stroman beat the Boston Red Sox 6-1 before 47,126 fans.
Who would the teen-agers favorite player be?
A current Blue Jay?
Future Hall of Fame shortstop Omar Vizquel who is from Venezuela?
“Miguel Cabrerra,” said Valero, “my father showed me video of him once when he was young getting a game-winning hit off Roger Clemens.”
But Vizquel is close. Valero has seen the former all-star shortstop now a first base coach with the Detroit Tigers, the first man to shake Cabrerra’s hand after a two-run single.
“One game I was watching on TV, someone hit a hard smash foul, Omar bent over, fielded the ball smoothy, shuffled his feet and pretended to come up to throw to first,” said Valero.
In other words ... Vizquel still has it.
The shortstop runs a 7.0 60-yard dash and has had many plentiful games wearing the Dawgs uniform: like two homers against St. Albert at Conrad Stadium during the provincials.
“I could never hit the St. Albert starter, he always threw me curve balls, this time he threw me a fastball,” said Valero.
And he turned around a fastball from a reliever for a home run as well to left centre.
And another game he hit two triples off the wall.
At the next Tournament 12 he will get more than three at-bats.
And more the next.
And more the next.