Danny Valencia: ” My Cuban dad taught me how to play baseball. “

Danny Valencia made his major league debut in 2010 with the Minnesota Twins. During his first season on the grand stage the Cuban-American of the Jewish faith hit .371 against lefthanded pitching and in total finished with a .311 batting average that season. Valencia finished third in the Rookie of the Year balloting that year.

During his major league career which spanned nine years, the infielder hit a respectable .268 with 96 roundtrippers and 368 runs batted in. The Miami native also compiled a WAR of 6.2 before he called it a day. Valencia who is making his WBC debut with the Israelis was a catalyst for the team in the Olympics going yard three tines and driving in seven runs in 18 at bats.

In what looks like his swan song as a player the slugger is looking to go out with a performance worthy of ending what has been a solid career.

You represented Israel in the Olympics and now you are representing them in the World Baseball Classic. Compare the level of play in the two events?

They are two completely different events and obviously the Olympics was a great experience, but only six teams compete in that tournament. The WBC is like the World Cup of baseball. This tournament in my opinion is more prestigious plus being in Miami and facing all these talented teams from Latin America makes the event second to none.

I would also like to add that the WBC is a step up in the level of talent. In Tokyo we played against prospects and former MLB players as apposed to in Miami where we are facing seasoned professionals and major league stars.

Being of Cuban descent and of the Jewish faith, how does it feel to play in front of those two groups of people, which are prevalent in Miami?

I feel embraced by both of these cultures. This tournament is to promote inclusiveness and being able to play for Israel is a big part of this. Also being of Cuban heritage, which is where I get my baseball skill via my father makes me feel very proud.

How has your major league experience helped you in this tournament?

Being that I’m used to playing in loud environments, no situation gets too big for me and I can make sense of a somewhat chaotic atmosphere. Playing in the Majors also gave the pedigree that allows me to exploit certain weaknesses in some of the young pitchers in this tournament.

The Cuban Baseball Federation has finally allowed MLB players to participate with team Cuba. What is your take on these developments?

I think it’s amazing and we should see a lot more of it. Cuba is a baseball playing country and it has a ton of talented players. To be frank with their full squad they are as good as anyone in the tournament. It is a sad situation and a shame that Cuban players have had to go through so much to play for their country.

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