Switch-hitting infielder Jesmuel Valentin has been a bit of an underrated contributor with the Double-A Reading Fightins.
Heading into action on Friday, Valentin was batting .339 over his last 14 games. Overall this season, the 22-year-old is batting .282 with four home runs and 35 RBI in 64 games.
Valentin, who plays mostly second base, but dabbles at shortstop a bit also, is the son of former big leaguer Jose Valentin.
The Puerto Rico native was a supplementary round pick (51st overall) of the Dodgers in 2012. He was acquired by the Phils as part of the Roberto Hernandez trade in 2014.
Recently, I spoke with Jesmuel about his team’s success, growing up around the game and more. Read ahead for that full interview.
-The Reading team has been great and you’ve contributed very nicely to the club’s success. What are your thoughts on competition in the Eastern League this year?
I just came here with the mindset that this was going to be a harder, tougher level, but so far it’s pretty much the same type of baseball, so I just do the stuff I know and play baseball, playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played.
-There are several well-touted prospects on this team and everyone contributes. What is it like playing with such a stacked group?
I think just, for me, being part of this kind of team is just amazing. It helps you a lot in every different mindset or how you want to see it, because if you want to play on a team like that, you have to do good. We have talent all over, from the first hitter to the nine hole hitter, so it’s fun. It’s fun to play like this, having the guys do good all day, so pretty sometimes you think I have to keep up, or I have to do better, but like it makes me play baseball how I’m supposed to because it seems like it makes everything easier to you. Every time I go to the plate, I just look to the scoreboard and what situation we are in. I know I’m going to have a hitter right behind me who can do the job, so if I need to move the runner, I just move the runner or if they need an RBI…I just try to bring him in. It’s just more easier to play like this, with a team like this because you don’t have too much pressure. You don’t have to put the team on your back, because pretty much there’s somebody there that’s going to be the player of the game. For me, that’s how it’s supposed to be.
-You grew up around the game, with your dad, Jose Valentin, playing in the big leagues. How do you think those early ties to baseball and growing up around the game made an impact on you?
I think coming up with my dad in all those clubhouses and on all those fields it was amazing. It was a great experience meeting a lot of good baseball players. One of the big guys was like being around David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Delgado, when (my dad) was with the White Sox, Frank Thomas, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Lee, so it was pretty fun. I got, I think, pretty much my mindset and IQ I have of the game thanks to that, just growing up in the clubhouses and in the dugouts, watching the games, picking up tips from everybody in my young age. So I think that’s one of the things I got from them.
-Were there any players besides your father that stood out as having left a big impression on you?
One of my biggest things was back in the day, I don’t remember the year, but when Roberto Alomar played with the White Sox I used to love to see him play. He was an infielder, same as my dad, and I wanted to be an infielder too, because that was the position my dad played. So, I was watching every single step he made and I was really close with him. He was close with my dad too. They were both from Puerto Rico too, so I had a lot of time with him in batting practice, being on the field, giving me some tips about defense and stuff. And then, when I was a little bit older, I had the chance to be around Jose Reyes. He was one of those guys he was energetic, everyone loves to have that type of guy around the clubhouse. He was always smiling and giving that energy to everybody. So I think those guys made my growing up process a little easier.
-Last year, you ran into a legal situation (with a domestic violence arrest) and you missed time due to a suspension by MLB. Was that whole thing something that you took a life lesson from?
Oh yeah, definitely. That process was a hard time, definitely. All I was thinking about was just my career. All I was thinking was my career- definitely, everything is just over with…but definitely it has not only helped me with my out-of-baseball life but definitely in baseball too. Just one of those things that I don’t wish nobody has to go through that…but definitely I just– sometimes I cannot control stuff like that, but I just take it– I might– my suspension I already served it so just treat it like a learning situation for my life.
-Were the charges dropped? Were there any legal penalties?
No penalties. Everything dropped. It was simple. After that, I just had to serve my suspension. I was just waiting for the hundred games to be over and that was pretty much it. Nothing else.
-Changing gears here…Do you have any game day superstitions or good luck charms?
Not really. I’m just a guy that goes out there and gives what I got. I’m not superstitious or trying to get luck or if I get two hits I have to wear the same pants, so no, not really. I’m not a big superstitious guy.
-Dating back to all your time at the parks with your dad as a kid, where there any pieces or memorabilia you got or were interested in?
I pretty much– I had a lot of batting gloves. Pretty much when I was little, I was always asking my dad, “I want this guy’s batting gloves! I want this guy’s batting gloves!” They always give me some. I don’t know if I have them saved, because I would use them to play with. It didn’t matter that they were too big or not, I just wore them. That’s all I did. I never saved them. I was just using all the things I got to play with.
-Do you have a great level of confidence in getting to where your dad played, at the top level?
My goal is like everybody’s goal. I want to make it to the big leagues, but all I’m thinking is– because if you start thinking, “I want to do this…”, for me everything’s just gonna speed up. This is my fifth year. This is my 40-man roster year, so I’m just trying to do everything I can to put my teammates and my team right now in the best situation to win or get a championship and just do my job and I’ll let them do their job.