Erne Valdes, the 5-8 lefty from St. Thomas, made only 6 starts in the Valley League in 2016… but what a six starts they were! The young man from Miami went 2-1, 1.04, with only 16 hits and 13 walks, against 45 strikeouts, in 34 2/3 innings pitched for the Front Royal Cardinals. He was pretty clearly the best pitcher in the league, and then, in fact, the League did indeed name him the pitcher of the year. (I’ll stop here, as Erne will also get his own post when we get to the top starters list in a couple weeks.)
Erne graciously took some time to answer a few questions about his experiences, both this summer and at St. Thomas. Take a look!
All Things Valley League: How did you get connected with Front Royal?
Erne Valdes: I got connected with Front Royal because my teammate Jose talked to Coach Victor about me, and that’s how it all happened.
ATVL: How did you find the Valley (atmosphere, etc), compared to Miami?
EV: At first the Valley and the town of Front Royal felt very weird for me. I’m used to the traffic, lots of people on the streets,and my Cuban food. But I think I fell in love with the country feel of the valley, the people are very friendly and really care about the players.
ATVL: What was the best part of the league for you?
EV: The best part about the league for me was friendships I formed with my teammates up there; we were one big family.
ATVL: Anything you would like to improve?
EV: Honestly I couldn’t have asked for a better summer, I wouldn’t change anything.
ATVL: For the record, why did have to leave early?
EV: I left early because I had Tommy John surgery a few years back and I was on an innings limit. I didn’t want to over do it. And I wanted to have my arm fresh for the season; I really want to help my school make it back to the World Series.
ATVL: June 29: perfect game through 6 against Woodstock, but you were taken out. What did you have going that day? Did you want to stay in? Were you disappointed, or just pleased with your outing?
EV: June 29 was a very memorable day for me this summer. At first I didn’t think I was going to be able to pitch, for some reason my arm wasn’t loosening up, felt sore. I told Coach about it and he said my pitch count was going to be 60 pitches that night (usually 80). But my curve ball was really on that day; I was throwing it for strikes, along with my slider against the lefties. I did want to stay in, but coach talked me out of it, and I wasn’t feeling good so I believe it was the right thing to do. I was really pleased with my outing that night. I also have to give props to my catcher Chris Bec- that night I didn’t have to shake him off, I trusted him and he guided me through those 6 perfect innings.
ATVL: What are your hopes for the future?
EV: My hopes for the future are to graduate next semester, and help my team win a championship. After that whatever happens happens.
ATVL: What was it like facing the University of Miami for an inning last February?
EV: That night was my first real outing post Tommy John surgery, so my first outing in about 2 years. And I was very nervous, I really loved the environment in the stadium that night; just glad I didn’t give up any runs. And I grew up a Miami fan, so it was cool experience for me.
ATVL: Why did you redshirt what would have been your sophomore year? Injury? Numbers?
EV: In the fall of my sophomore year I started having elbow pain, I tried rehabbing and it didn’t work. I had a partial tear. I waited till the end of that season to get surgery. So I missed that season and the next. So I am a fifth year junior right now.
ATVL: Favorite major league team?
EV: Favorite big league team is the Marlins, I’m all about Miami, I’m a huge Dolphins and Miami Heat fan as well
ATVL: What was your first thought when you were named the pitcher of the year?
EV: When I was told I won pitcher of the year, I couldn’t believe it. I’m very blessed to have had the summer I did, and I couldn’t have done it without my family, friends, teammates, and coaches. A lot of people played a big role in that award. I’m just very thankful to the Valley League and the people that supported me back in Virginia.
Thank you for your time, Erne, and good luck this spring at St. Thomas!