Thankful for the Journey So Far, Valdez hopes for Something Bigger

Andrew Valdez holding a baseball bat

Big league baseball has been Andrew Valdez’s dream since possibly his first day of tee-ball. The 23-year-old Fresno Pacific University senior recalls that, at age 6, his mom told him he was going to be a Yankee.

“I remember the first day,” the kinesiology major says, “the coach was like, ‘who wants to play catcher?’ And I was, like, ‘I do.’ I sat behind the tee, and I had no purpose being there. I was in all the catcher’s gear, and it was just a funny moment.”

From tee-ball to community college all-star to Sunbirds outfielder. In the spring of 2023, Valdez slugged a single-season .669, second highest in FPU history, while leading the PacWest with a .414 conference batting average.

His dreams got a boost that summer, when Head Coach Oscar Hirschkorn helped Valdez earn a spot with the Bellingham (WA) Bells in a summer league for players hoping to go pro. He called playing 45 days straight in front of roughly 3,000 fans per game the experience of a lifetime. “This summer really taught me where I fit in with a lot of D1 players,” he says. “I know I’m a division two player, but I feel like I can compete.”

The road has been challenging. Valdez’s mom and stepfather moved him and his four siblings to Visalia when he was only 7. His stepfather—whom he calls “Pops”—helped raise five kids.

Valdez knew he could play college ball but wasn’t sure how he’d get there. His family didn’t have the money, but they gave him all the encouragement he needed.

“I knew my mom didn’t have finances to allow me to go to a big college,” he says, “and I knew scholarships wouldn’t cover everything.”

Enrolling at College of the Sequoias, Valdez played second base for the COS Giants. He was named MVP of the Junior College Central Valley Conference, won a conference championship, batted .415 and led California with a position-record 10 home runs.

In 2021 FPU offered Valdez a scholarship. The same year he became a Sunbird he became a father to son Dash Tiger. “I was scared,” Valdez says. “Me having a son at a young age, 21, and still trying to pursue my dream of baseball. Probably for a whole year I was a little confused.”

After I learned to adapt to [Dash] being in my life, it’s been the greatest blessing ever.
Andrew Valdez
Andrew Valdez thinking and with hands on hips

It was a lot. “Trying to balance being a dad, being a ball player, being a student…it was a big load,” he says. “After I learned to adapt to [Dash] being in my life, it’s been the greatest blessing ever.”

Fall 2023 was Valdez’s best semester academically, but his worst emotionally when cardiac arrest unexpectedly took Pops, shattering his stepson. “My soul felt crushed,” he says.

At the same time, Valdez knew he had to pass 18 units to continue playing. He credits his FPU coaches and mentors who guided him academically and helped him grow in his faith.

“In the beginning, my faith wasn’t as strong as it was before I attended this school,” Valdez says. “Now I rely on my faith and God to keep me going forward.”

Although Valdez had always known God, he never had a strong relationship with him until he became part of the FPU community. Today Valdez says he feels a responsibility to share his faith with his family, as well as graduate and get signed by a professional team.

“I’ve come a long way,” he says. “I’m thankful for everything in my journey. Hopefully it’s just the start and not the finish.”