Danilo Valiente: Chasing Dreams

The emotion on home run derby pitcher for Aaron Judge said it all last night. Danilo Valiente, 52, was ecstatic after seeing his player crush 47 homeruns. It was a great moment for him, Judge, and all the fans their watching. What many people do not know is the heartwarming story behind Danilo Valiente and his journey to becoming a part of the New York Yankees organization.

From the ages of 9 to 25, Valiente was apart of the Cuban baseball club Boyeros, and made his way up to their Triple-A team but his dream of playing baseball would be go no further. “They told me there were too many good players in front of me, so I decided to be a coach.” Valiente would continue to coach for fifteen years and as much as he loved baseball and his home country, times were tough. Between coaching and spending extra time working at the local hospital, Valiente only made the equivalent of $7.50 per month and didn’t even own a car. His big break came in 1999 where he had the honor to be apart of the Cuban national team coaching staff where he would learn the art of throwing batting practice.

In 2001, Valiente would meet the love of his life Isabel and three years later they would get married. In 2006, the two decided to make their move to the United States and found a home in Tampa Bay, Florida, but sorrow would soon strike as a month later Isabel would lose her battle with pancreatic cancer. Feeling lost, Valiente turned to baseball for comfort. A cousin told him about how New York Yankees official Mark Newman would always take morning walks near the training facilities and one day Valiente took a chance and approached him.

“He told me he was a coach in Cuba and wanted to work for the Yankees,” said Newman, who is fluent in Spanish. “I never had anyone apply for a job quite like that before.”

A few months later, the two met again and Valiente was hired to a minor league coaching contract. Month after month, year after year, Valiente would continue to impress to the point where New York Yankee players wanted him to get his own call up to the big leagues and soon enough it would happen.

“No one throws better batting practice,” Yankees executive Brian Cashman said. “It’s on the money every time. The players love the way he throws, and they love him. So we promoted him.”

People all over the organization rave about the work he puts in and how much he means to the team including former Yankee great Derek Jeter, who made Valiente come onto the field during his ceremonial last game at Yankee Stadium.

“It was just like a dream,” he said. “I was standing there thinking: How could I be here? What am I doing in this place? I could feel the tears coming down my face. It was the biggest thing that ever happened to me.”

Now, Valiente is a household name in the clubhouse and a guy that young players not only look up to, but can also relate to on their own journeys throughout life and baseball.