Athlete of the week: Antonio Valdez

Rylan Renteria, Contributor

With the overwhelming success of the UTSA football team in 2022, a lot of fans were wondering what other UTSA team would fill that void during the spring semester. 

The Roadrunner baseball team has stepped up to the plate and delivered. Through 15 games, the team is 12-3, largely thanks to Baylor transfer Antonio Valdez.  

In his youth, Valdez was like most kids, just playing baseball for fun and while playing T-ball, Valdez fell in love with the game of baseball. 

“One day when I was a kid, my mom actually walked me to the plate, and when I hit the ball I ran to third, found out I ran the wrong way, ran back to home and then to first and was still safe. I just remember the joy of everyone on my team congratulating me.”

Valdez went to high school in Corpus Christi and faced the tall task of competing while being an undersized player, yet refused to back down. 

“I was always looked at as the smaller guy,” Valdez said. “My freshman year of high school,  I was 5’2, 110 pounds. But for me, it didn’t matter how big guys were; I just wanted to be good at the game of baseball.”

Valdez entered college as the 335th ranked player in Texas and coincidentally start his collegiate career in San Antonio at the University of the Incarnate Word under current UTSA head coach Pat Hallmark. He enjoyed his best season so far at UIW, where he had 65 hits, 31 RBIs, four home runs and slashed a .302 batting average. 

After one successful season at UIW, Valdez decided to transfer to Baylor, where he could further showcase his talents against Power Five opponents. However, things did not quite go well in Waco, as Valdez’s performance declined during his time at Baylor. Valdez totaled just 34 RBIs, four home runs and a sub .300 batting average in two years with the Bears. After the 2022 season, Valdez decided it was time for a change in scenery and entered the transfer portal. 

After a long talk with his parents, Valdez returned to San Antonio and reunited with his former coach for his fifth and final year of eligibility. 

“I knew what kind of baseball they played,” Valdez said. “Being able to follow them all last season and see the run that [UTSA] went on watching the excitement and the passion and just the way that they played the game really attracted me to come back.”

Since arriving at UTSA, Valdez has been completely dominant. In 60 at-bats, Valdez has 27 hits, 27 RBIs, five home runs and holds a .450 batting average. These stats are on par with his best stats in a full season, and Valdez has 41 games still left to play. 

Valdez was also named Conference USA hitter of the week this past week. 

“I give the coaching staff and this team a lot of the credit; they put me in positions to succeed,” Valdez said. “It was up to me to just go out there and perform.”

Despite his newfound success at UTSA, Valdez is still very grateful for his time at UIW and Baylor. “It was extremely valuable getting to see the guys who succeeded and what they did to prepare, coaches who have been there and done it. It was truly an honor to be a part of those programs and see how they go about their business.”

With it being Valdez’s final season playing collegiate baseball, he is very conscious of his own mortality. 

 “It’s tough for me to even think about it, knowing that this is my last season in college baseball, so I’m taking it one game at a time; any game could be my last,” Valdez said. “I’ve seen guys who’ve worked very hard to get where they are going down … I’m just trying to take advantage of every opportunity that I’ve got.” 

Keeping with the one game at a time mentality, Valdez did not comment on possibly pursuing an MLB career. If he continues at his current pace, he would certainly get looks from major league scouts.

Antonio Valdez will look to continue his historic start to the season against UTRGV at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 21, at UTRGV Baseball Stadium.