Jack Valentine '20 has no memory of life without the sport of baseball. He recalls being three years old and having catches with his dad in their back yard, transitioning to the local recreational league as soon as he was old enough to enroll. As an elementary student in the Washington, D.C. area, Valentine was a member of a local travel baseball team. When his family relocated to Hockessin, Delaware, he shared his talents with his Sanford and local Babe Ruth teams, in addition to playing for his D.C. travel team in the summers. Valentine has proudly been a contributing member of Sanford’s varsity team, primarily as a pitcher and a catcher, for the past four years.
Physical Education Instructor and Varsity Baseball Coach Jamie Clark elaborated: “Due to his transfer to Sanford, Delaware Independent Athletic Association (DIAA) rules prevented Jack from playing at the varsity level as an eighth grader. Once he joined our team as a ninth grader, he made everyone in the conference take notice. As a freshman, he earned second team all-conference honors in the designated hitter position. Based on his performances as a pitcher, catcher, and hitter, Jack was voted to first team all-conference in the utility position during his sophomore year. He was on the second team all-conference roster as a junior in the pitcher and catcher positions and also for his overall utility as a player.”
When it came time to begin the process of touring potential colleges and universities, Valentine decided to focus on smaller schools with competitive NCAA Division III baseball programs. In the spring of 2019, he visited with several interested coaches, but took a special liking to McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland, and its new head coach, Grant Neary, who came to McDaniel from a Division I program the year before. Valentine was intrigued by Neary’s direct communication style, high expectations for players, and ambitious plans for McDaniel’s baseball program.
At a midsummer recruiting showcase, Valentine unfortunately fractured his wrist in a collision with another player at first base. Upon reaching out to college coaches after the injury, however, he was pleasantly surprised that Coach Neary, who had already seen him play on two occasions, quickly responded with an offer. “My injury was not a deterrent to the McDaniel coach,” shared Valentine. “In fact, he offered me a place on the team on the spot, cast and all.” Valentine accepted the offer and in October was admitted early decision to McDaniel, where he will play baseball in the Centennial Conference as a college freshman.
Valentine’s decision was not based solely on baseball. He found the campus atmosphere at McDaniel to be very welcoming. He explained: “I immediately loved the school’s culture. Some might say it is a sports school because so many students play on a team, but it is also a strong academic school. I liked the blend of academics and athletics. I am thinking of majoring in either education or economics and business administration, and both of those programs have excellent ratings. I work hard in the classroom and hard on the field, and McDaniel seems like a place where my efforts will meet with success in both places.”
When asked if a coach had inspired Valentine and led to his success, he reflected: “My first coach was my dad, and he is the reason I have developed into the player that I am today. Both he and my mom have believed in me, encouraged me, driven me to countless games and practices, and allowed me to follow my passion. I know my parents will continue to be in the stands cheering me on every step of the way during my collegiate career. I also want to thank Coach Clark and the entire Sanford baseball coaching staff for helping me improve my baseball skills and for supporting and encouraging me these past four years."
Valentine continued: “Baseball has always been an important part of my life. I dreamed of becoming a college athlete, and I am very excited to have the opportunity to play at the next level. I have worked hard, and now I have been rewarded with the chance to be on the McDaniel roster.”
In the fall of 2020, Valentine will trade in his Sanford Warrior blue and gold for the McDaniel Green Terror’s green and gold. Until then, he will continue his participation with the Service Club and their various activities and enjoy the many events that make senior year so special for Sanford students, including his final spring as a Sanford baseball player.
Coach Clark concluded: “I predict that Jack will have an outstanding season as a senior. He has been the cornerstone of our baseball program for the past four years. He has done everything we have asked of him, and he has led his team through his example. Jack’s work ethic, combined with his skills and athleticism, have opened up this college baseball opportunity for him. McDaniel is fortunate to be getting not only a very good baseball player but, more importantly, a great person. I am eagerly anticipating Jack’s senior season on the diamond at Sanford.”