Jiovanni Valdez has been playing baseball his whole life and he is bringing those years of experience to a young Venice High varsity team that is starting Western League play this week. In fact, Valdez began playing much earlier than most kids his age.
“I’ve been playing baseball since I was 3 or 4," says Valdez, an infielder who switches between first and third base. "I actually started tee ball an extra year early because my whole family has played baseball and my whole life has always been around baseball."
After playing at North Venice as a child, Valdez is giving back by volunteering at the same location where he grew up.
“I do a lot of the volunteer work at the North Venice Little League," he says. "I grew up there my whole life and all my family has grown up there. So I wanted to give back and help the kids, do some umpiring work, a little coaching, and work the snack bar.”
Valdez has propelled the Gondoliers to an early 3-2 record. His best game so far came in a 15-5 nonleague victory over King Drew Medical. He singled in his only plate appearance, then stole a base en route to scoring a run.
Venice Coach Walter Fujita believes it is Valdez’s experience in a different sport that fuels his passion and type of play.
“He’s a football player, so that helps to fuel his nose in the dirt style of play," Fujita says. "He’s a tough kid, he comes out and takes ground balls off the chest, he does all the great stuff for the team and leads by example.”
Valdez thinks 14 years on the diamond have taught him several things that he has used off the field. Given that baseball has been his passion for so long, it is no wonder that the game has taught him several life lessons.
“On the field there’s a lot of lessons that you learn," Valdez says. "For instance, nobody likes someone who’s big-headed, talks a lot and rubs it in people’s faces. So baseball has kind of made me the mellow person. I’m not big-headed and I think I’m a nice guy.”
Even though he is graduating this year, Valdez is hoping to continue playing baseball at the next level. His father works at nearby Loyola Marymount University and he is hoping he will be able to walk on at the Division I school.
“I’m going to continue playing baseball my whole life–definitely at the college level and maybe after that," Valdez says. "I just want to keep playing and see where it takes me.”