If you are a Jewish baseball fan you know who Danny Valencia is as a player. 9 season in the big leagues and his journey made him a fan favorite throughout the baseball towns everywhere. From Minnesota to Boston to Baltimore to Kansas City to Toronto to Oakland to Seattle back to Baltimore, Valencia finds himself in a position to end his career in an incredible way; Olympic Gold Medalist. Valencia will play for Team Israel this summer and find himself in the middle of a dangerous lineup. We caught up with him to talk about his magical journey through the game of baseball.
1) How did you get started in baseball?
I was like any other kid whose parents encouraged the sport. My mother is Jewish and my father converted. He was from Cuba so baseball was in his DNA. I began in Little league and the rest is history.
2) When did you know you were good enough to play at the Major League Level?
In Middle School my goal was to make Varsity. Once I made Varsity, I began to think I was good enough to play in college. I wasn’t sure if that meant D1, D2 or D3. I always want to know if I was good enough. My ultimate dream was to play in the College World Series. Miami baseball is on top of the world so I wanted to go there. I was able to play there, eventually got drafted and had the career I did.
3) Played for many teams in your Major League career. Was that harder as a player to go from city to city or did you enjoy the opportunity to have new experiences?
I wouldn’t change my journey for anything in the world. It is very rare for a player to get drafted and move all the way up with that same team. I got to experience playing for different managers and with different players. Every year my goal was to play for the next year; that was my mindset throughout my career and it lasted 9 seasons.
4) If you had to pick one organization to wear across your chest, you’d say you were a…?
Well, certainly I was drafted by the Twins and spent my developmental years there. My playing time in the Bigs is rooted by the Twins. I had the most success in Oakland and Toronto helped him get to that point. The guys in Toronto really helped him get there. I wouldn’t say I relate to one team but the Twins a big part of me and I wouldn’t change the journey.
5) Are you officially retired?
I wouldn’t say I am officially retired. I do not see myself going to Spring training. But if paperwork came to join a team I would sign it.
6) What is your plan now?
The Olympics are a big part of my immediate future. I am helping to fundraise money and secure sponsorship deals. I am taking a lot of pride in that. I have a wife and a 20 month old baby, plus finishing my degree and working in commercial real estate. I am pretty busy and have my hand on a lot of things.
7) What has been your experience with Team Israel?
My relationship with the team began years ago with Brad Ausmus who called me but the qualifier was taking place while I was still in the Bigs. But I followed the team from afar. Growing up I went to Temple on the High Holidays and we did all the holidays in the house. So it was a cool idea for me to play for Team Israel. In 2017 Coach Jerry Weinstein called but I had just been traded to the Mariners and I felt I needed to gel with the team and help push towards the playoffs. So for me now is the time. I knew that at worst case scenario, I would play in meaningful games at an International tournament. And best case scenario we make the Olympics. It has been surreal to think our team is going to play in the Olympics.