Valdez, sitting in a major league clubhouse, talked easily about how he appreciates the contrast from then to now. He continues to fill in for Chase Utley at second base for the Phillies. With two infield singles last night in the Phillies' 7-4 loss to the Nationals, Valdez raised his average to .355.
His path to today has been anything but straight. The organizations that have held his rights are, in order, the Expos, Marlins, White Sox, Mariners, Padres, Dodgers, Mets and Phillies - with a couple of teams in Korea and Japan thrown in along the way for good luck.
You watch Tom Brady crying on that ESPN clip, remembering the apparently cataclysmic day when he wasn't taken until the sixth round of the NFL draft, and you want to introduce him to Valdez. His is the most circuitous route in the Phillies' veteran clubhouse.
"I didn't start playing until I was about 13, something like that," said Valdez, who is now 32.
"All of my friends, we made a team. We had nine guys, switching around positions, and I started to like it. We played down the street but one day we decided to go down to the field."
That was it, his first real team.
"I don't think it had a name," he said.
Valdez said he liked playing, and realized he was good at it, but did not really commit to the sport until a coach named Victor Franco told Angel, Wilson's older brother, that the kid should come out more often, that he had a chance. Franco is said to have been the man who discovered Vladimir Guerrero, and his word convinced Wilson to dare to dream.
"The first time I saw a scout, I think it was the Atlanta Braves," he said. "I did pretty well, played one game, went 3-for-3 and played pretty good defense - but they didn't tell me anything. They said I was too young to sign. I think I was 15.
"I would go and other teams would see me and they all would say the same thing, that I was too young. Then I got signed by Montreal.
"I was thinking I could make it," he said. "I was hitting .300, and I knew I had a chance to come to the States. Besides that, I was playing pretty smart, doing the little things. I was thinking I had a chance."
Valdez was 18. He played for 2 years for the Expos in the Dominican summer league and then made it to rookie ball in Jupiter, Fla. He could not know of the travelogue that was ahead of him, of eight major league franchises and two continents. No one could predict such a path - promoted to the majors by five of the teams that held his rights but never for more than 51 games, not before the Phillies used him as a fill-in for Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco last season in 111 games.
His glove was excellent. His bat was decent. His overall professionalism was the thing they all talked about.
In 2010, as the ultimate utilitarian, he was an overnight success - 13 years after signing his first professional contract.
"When you're working hard and trying to prove yourself, and you get to the major leagues, you enjoy it," Valdez said. "You do whatever you have to do to get here.
"Some players get lucky and go pretty much straight to the major leagues. Some players don't, and they have to go through the hard times. Some spend years in the minor leagues. For some, it is very hard.
"A lot of people don't know that. Some people just come and watch the game. They don't know what we're going through. It's hard, especially with me coming from the Dominican, it's hard to leave your family and learn a different language and hang out with people you don't know. But now I enjoy it.
"I'm a major league player," he said. "What more could I ask for?"
It was always the destination Wilson Valdez had in mind. What he never knew was that the journey itself would be what defined him.
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