SJVA baseball star achieves landmark home run
■ By Corey Evan / Sports Reporter
Many factors play key roles in how our children turn out; from faith to family rulebooks, and what we allow them to watch on TV. Even the schools we enroll them in can make or break them. And eleventh grade student Nehemiah Valencia of San Jacinto Valley Academy shows what can be accomplished when one tries their best.
Nehemiah was nominated for our MVP Spotlight by his father, Raul.
“I’ve actually been his coach since he was four or five, every year. I’ve coached him for two years (at SJVA),” said Raul. “I’ve coached him in soccer and he’s done very well. It’s been an honor to see him grow up and to see him excel in baseball this year.”
His mother, Tina, seconds that motion: “He’s a blessing… He does amazing on the field and off the field, so we’re proud of him. He’s a leader at home, the oldest of four kids. He’s also a leader on the field.”
Nehemiah plays and captains on both the soccer and baseball teams for the SJVA Wolves. “I’ve been playing since I was four or five years old, and started T-ball; my parents just taught me how to play the game at a young age and I grew to love the sport.”
This season, Nehemiah made waves in the dugout as he hit a landmark home run on May 6 against Riverside County Ed Academy.
“We played a double-header; in the first game, I went up to bat, hit a triple, in the next time up to bat I hit a double, then hit a single… So I just needed a home run for a cycle,” said Nehemiah. “And it’s actually funny – I was in the dugout talking to my teammate and he bet me $5 I couldn’t hit a homerun. So that same one, I went up there and hit a homerun… a grand slam.”
And now his teammate owes him a fiver.
The Wolves’ baseball team went 14-3 this season and 10-2 in the Warrior League, which is not a bad season by any means. And in soccer, Nehemiah helped lead his team to a 16-2 season, 9-0 league record this year. That’s a record of which new baseball Coach Charlie Ilardi is super proud.
“Coming into this year, me being new to this school, I didn’t know too many of the baseball players from the year before. So Nehemiah was one of the first ones that I met,” said Ilardi. “I saw some of his athletic ability in soccer, and I was really excited to get him on the baseball. I had to wait a little bit longer than I wanted just because the soccer season ran a bit long with playoffs. Once he came over to baseball, it’s like he never left!”
At home, faith plays a vital role in Nehemiah’s life. He and his family attend 4-12 Church in San Jacinto: “We’re thankful to Jesus that he is who he is,” says Tina. Outside of athletics, Nehemiah spends time with his teammates by eating and chatting at local taco shops, as well as Stadium Pizza. Some of his teammates even attend church together, and he goes so far as to say he considers them part of his family. And based on the evidence available, he’s staying out of trouble.
Nehemiah says you can expect him to play for the Wolves again next year, too. As of right now, Nehemiah is planning on studying biotechnology after high school. But with one more year to go, who knows what revelations he might receive as to his path forward.
Right now, it teeters on which schools give him a scholarship first. For now, he and his fellow Wolves must brace for a Gladiator onslaught from Covina’s Gladstone Academy this afternoon at 3 p.m. as part of the CIF Southern Section playoffs. Make your way to SJVA if you can and show these Wolves your support.
Do you have a student athlete to nominate for the MVP Spotlight? If so, reach Corey Evan at (760) 270-5625 or firstname.lastname@example.org.