Reading's Valle could be Phillies' All-Star catcher of the future

Posted: July 12, 2012

READING — What do Carlos Ruiz and a 21-year-old Double A catcher have in common? This year they've both been recognized as All-Stars.

Reading Phillies backstop Sebastian Valle was one of a league-high six members of the Phillies' affiliate named to the Eastern League's All-Star Game, which starts at 7:05 Wednesday night and can be seen live on Comcast SportsNet. Valle will be joined on the Eastern Division team by outfielder Leandro Castro, shortstop Troy Hanzawa, third baseman Cesar Hernandez, first baseman Darin Ruf and pitcher Jordan Whatcott.

The All-Star Game is returning to the city that has affectionately been dubbed "Baseballtown" for the first time since 1974. FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading will play host to the All-Star festivities, which include the game, gala and luncheon events as well as Tuesday night's zany Home Run Derby.

Twenty-eight All-Stars participated in the unconventional Derby, each receiving 2 minutes to hit a variety of targets, which included a dunk tank as well as fans trying to shag fly balls while jumping on a trampoline and sitting in the basket of a cherry picker in the outfield. Players received different point values for each target they hit. Bash a regular old home run? Just 25 points. Hit the apparatus the R-Phils could only describe as a "golf ball picker-upper" on the fly as it drives around the outfield? That's 100. Fan in the cherry picker makes a catch? That's 200 points, and you're likely on your way to victory.

In the infield, a giant net protected fans enjoying a cocktail party from the best seats in the house. A full-service bar and oyster bar were just some of the amenities included in the all-you-can-eat buffet.

Harrisburg Senators outfielder Chris Rahl eventually took the crown in an unforgettable event by racking up 340 points.

Valle, signed at 16 by the Phillies' organization as an amateur free agent in 2006, said he was pleased to have an All-Star experience on his home field, but considers this just another step in his baseball career.

"I'm happy with the progress I've been able to make over the past 4 years," Valle said through Whatcott, who served as a translator. "I try not to be content with where I am, but I am happy with where I am and want to continue to get better and better."

Receiving All-Star honors has become nothing short of commonplace for Valle, who has done so as a member of the Reading Phillies, Clearwater Threshers, Lakewood BlueClaws and Williamsport Crosscutters in each of his last four seasons. Valle also participated in the 2011 MLB Futures Game as a part of All-Star festivities in Phoenix. The catcher is hitting .246 with nine home runs and 33 RBI in 65 games this season.

"He's still got a long way to go, but he's gotten better every year," Reading manager Dusty Wathan said. "That's all you can ask from a guy."

Valle, from Los Mochis, Mexico, is the third-ranked prospect in the Phillies' farm system, according to the scouting gurus at Baseball America.

"He's really taken the defensive side and realized how important it is," Wathan said. "We signed him as an offensive guy but he's realized finally that defense is going to get him to the big leagues and offense is going to keep him there."

Sitting 13 games under .500 at the All-Star break, the big-league Phillies are hopeful that Valle will be their backstop of the future. It is a future they fear may come sooner, rather than later.

"?‘Chooch' isn't getting any younger," Wathan said. "They've got Brian Schneider up there as the backup and they have Eric Kratz, but I think looking toward the future, hopefully Sebastian will be able to carry that torch and take over as the new leader in the Phillies clubhouse."

Valle is confident thathe is en route to the big show .

"I've had a great 5 years with the Phillies. They've given me a lot of opportunities to play and I've been around experienced players who have helped me out," Valle said. "Even though I'm young, baseball is baseball and I try every day to get better and help my team win."