Each year brings a new set of circumstances for Team Alberta infielder Cesar Valero, but his mindset remains consistent as he competes in his his fourth T12 presented by New Era."My goal is to perform like I know I can against Canada's best, and help lead the younger players," Valero
Each year brings a new set of circumstances for Team Alberta infielder Cesar Valero, but his mindset remains consistent as he competes in his his fourth T12 presented by New Era.
"My goal is to perform like I know I can against Canada's best, and help lead the younger players," Valero said.
Valero debuted at T12 in 2015 as a young player himself at just 13, and he immediately impressed in the field and at the plate, showing the ability to more than hold his own against Canada's best young pitchers. In the ensuing years, Valero has developed into one of Canada's most promising prospects.
"My previous experiences at T12 have helped me mature faster, because I was always playing against players who were older than myself, and [it] has helped me be able to slow the game down," Valero said. "Now, I feel that it's my turn to help do that for the younger players this year," he said.
Valero, who will graduate from Foothills Composite High School in Okotoks, AB, next June, is eligible for Major League Baseball's Draft in 2019, and he has a verbal commitment to Oregon State University.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound infielder is one of the top prospects for the 2019 Draft among this year's T12 crop, ranked 134th on Perfect Game's 2019 High School Top-500 National Rankings. Valero is the second-ranked Canadian on the list, trailing only Jaden Brown (Mississauga, ON; a University of Kentucky commit), who comes in at No. 34.
Brown, an infielder from the Ontario Blue Jays, will suit up for Team Ontario at this year's T12.
"I'm excited for my draft year," Valero said. "I've had some teammates who have gone through the same process, so I kind of know what to expect."
One of the teammates that Valero speaks of is LaRon Smith (Spruce Grove, AB), who showcased his talents at T12 for Team Alberta in 2016 and '17. Smith, a former teammate of Valero at the Okotoks Dawgs Academy, and a fellow infielder, was drafted in the 25th round last year by Minnesota, and he is now playing in the Twins organization.
Valero's road to T12 has been far from routine. Cesar was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela, and at just five years of age, his parents, Maria and Cesar Sr,. successfully applied for permanent residence in Canada. The Valero's first relocated to Quebec for a short time, before making their home in Calgary.
Having walked through challenges and uncertainties off of the field, Valero said he is not prone to feeling outside pressures.
"I'm not worried about it, because there's no point in worrying about something that hasn't happened yet," Valero said. "I'm just trying to do what I know I do best, and leave the rest to God."
Valero played his minor baseball in Calgary until he was 12 years old, when he played against the Dawgs Academy in a pee-wee tournament, where he opened the eyes of the Dawgs coaching staff, who saw a glimpse of his potential. The following season, Valero joined the Dawgs.
Allen Cox is the head coach of the Dawgs Academy, which sends 17 players to this year's T12, and he is a member of Team Alberta's coaching staff. 2017 T12 MVP Micah McDowell is a product of the Dawgs Academy who, like Valero, has a verbal commitment to attend Oregon State.
In October 2017, Valero joined Canada's Junior National Team. Though shortstop is his primary position, Valero possesses the skills to play every infield position as well as the outfield, and his bat has shown the ability to hit top-end pitching on big stages.
Valero appreciates his experiences at T12 for presenting him with a platform to showcase his skills while giving him a chance to acclimatize to performing on a big stage in a Major League setting that the Rogers Centre provides.
"I think that T12 has definitely prepared me for the next level, because you're playing against the best competition that Canada has to offer," Valero said.
Valero also pointed to the chance to learn from the deep coaching staffs at T12, as well as the confidence boost that comes with the opportunity to interact with a wide variety of Blue Jays alums, headlined by Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar.
"I think I hit a couple of balls out during my last round of batting practice last year," Valero remembered. "After I hit one to left field, I remember hearing from behind the cage, one of the alums telling me to 'stay out of my deck, little man, that's my house!' The chance to learn from them, and also fun moments like that that, I'll remember forever."
Watch for Team Alberta infielder Cesar Valero to make an impact in the 2018 T12 presented by New Era, looking to further make his case as one of Canada's most exciting prospects.
Jonathan Hodgson is a contributor to MLB.com.