For former West Ranch shortstop Nico Valdez, playing baseball at the next level is an important goal.
Even more important for Valdez is the opportunity to serve his country.
After receiving his official bid to attend the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, he will have the chance to do both.
A long process that started during his junior year at West Ranch has come full circle, with Valdez set to join Navy at the end of June for Plebe Summer, a training program required of all incoming freshmen to the Naval Academy.
“My junior year at West Ranch, I was talking to my coach and we had a meeting on options of where to go after high school. He brought up the Naval Academy and he ended up getting a workout for me on the field and that went well. From there, that’s when the recruitment process started,” Valdez said. “The summer going into my senior year I went to a camp and absolutely fell in love with the facilities, the whole academy experience and what they were all about.”
After a successful three-year varsity stint at West Ranch, Valdez went on to play one year at Los Angeles Mission College, appearing in 40 games for the Eagles.
Valdez logged a batting average of .301, with 43 hits in 143 at-bats, 24 RBIs and 12 stolen bases in his lone season at LAMC.
He decided to take the year off from baseball in his sophomore year, instead focusing on his academics while also saving a year of playing eligibility.
“I absolutely loved it at Los Angeles Mission College. I think that I developed as a player and as a person, especially academically. My grades definitely shot up from high school, from above average to honor roll at Mission,” Valdez said. “From there, the coach was still in contact, he flew me out for an official visit and that’s when it really started. All I had to do was maintain my GPA and from there I just got accepted recently.
“It was a long application process. I had to get a congressional nomination, I had to get three recommendations from teachers and had to go for three interviews, but it all worked out in the long run. I got in last week and I couldn’t be happier.”
Valdez will head to Annapolis for Induction Day on June 27, and will then take part in a six-week boot camp that he has already began training for.
During boot camp, Valdez will still be able to practice and play baseball as he prepares for the 2020 season and beyond in a competitive Division I conference.
Valdez was recruited as a shortstop, but said he’d be willing to play wherever he’s needed. Shortstop is often considered the most challenging defensive position, and he believes playing the position could benefit him not only on the field, but after his playing days are over as well.
“My biggest asset is that I’m a field general at shortstop. I can make all the plays and then some and I’m a great leader,” he said. “I work hard and I make not only myself better, but those around me better as well.”
Valdez is hoping to make an immediate impact on the field for his team in a quest to earn multiple conference titles and make a deep playoff run.
While baseball is a priority, so is academics, as he sets his eyes on a lofty goal after he graduates from the Naval Academy.
“My short-term goals would be to excel in the classroom because I know that’s definitely going to be a challenge,” he said. “Also make an impact right away on the field and help my team win many conference titles and make a playoff run. My long-term goal is I hope to work my rank up high while I’m at the Academy and become a helicopter pilot.
“Good baseball, good culture, and on top of that I get to serve my country, so I couldn’t be happier or honored for the opportunity.”