The Dominican Republic's reputation of producing talented baseball players is no secret.
Enmanuel Valdez' rise to becoming one of the Hooks most consistent hitters isn't one either.
The 23-year-old infielder, who was born in San Juan de la Maguana, has risen through the minor league ranks since signing a minor league contract with the Houston Astros in 2015.
In fact, Valdez is off to his best start since playing rookie ball with the Dominican Summer League Astros in 2016.
After Friday's game against the Wichita Wind Surge, Valdez leads the Hooks in batting average (.336), home runs (8) and RBI (34).
"I never change the goal of where I want to be," Valdez said through his interpreter Edgar Martinez, who is the Hooks' bullpen coach. "Everything I have on and off the field is something I've been working for my whole life."
Valdez could be on his way to a promotion in the upcoming weeks but for now, he's reaping the rewards for his play in a Hooks uniform.
Valdez, who is in his first full season with the Hooks after joining the club in August of 2021, was named the Texas League Player of the Week, after posting a 1.215 OPS in six games against the Frisco RoughRiders. Valdez went 10 for 27 in that series with three home runs, three doubles and eight RBI.
Valdez was also named the the Astros Minor League Player of the Month in April after hitting .351 with 16 RBI.
"It means a ton and most importantly, thanks to God for everything," Valdez said. "Thanks to (Hooks hitting coach) Aaron (Westlake) and my teammates for supporting me. I like to stay in the present and give everything I have everyday."
Playing in the present is something Hooks hitting coach Aaron Westlake has noticed about Valdez since the start of the season.
Westlake said Valdez is the type of player who doesn't put pressure on himself when he's at the plate or on the infield.
"Valdez is a kid who shows up to the field everyday ready to work," Westlake said. "He doesn't take the previous results into the next day whether it's positive or negative, which is mature for someone his age. He comes to the park ready to play and he doesn't put too much pressure on himself."
Westlake has seen his share of minor and major league talent since playing the big leagues himself. Westlake, who is in his first season as the Hooks' hitting coach, was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 2011 and played college baseball at Vanderbilt.
He previously worked as a development coach in the Florida Complex League and with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"This game is a game of adjustments," Westlake said. "Enmanuel is a very smart player, especially on the offensive side. He's adjusted to how the pitchers are pitching him. He makes the adjustment quickly and sometimes it takes players longer to adjust therefore they struggle a little bit more, but his ability to adjust from at-bat to at-bat is why he's having the success he's having."
Even with his success on the field, Valdez said not knowing English and transitioning to a new city has been difficult.
His motivation to keep going comes from his family — especially his late grandfather Aciado Valdez, who has supported Valdez since a young age.
"It's been hard and it hasn't been easy coming from a new city," Valdez said. "Not knowing the language has been the hardest part but thanks to God I have been able to adapt and things are going good here."
Westlake said he believes Valdez is an impact player that can benefit a Triple-A and major league club if given the opportunity.
Valdez' competitive nature and ability to bring energy to players around him is one of his biggest assets.
"He's a guy who's going to give you a competitive at-bat when he's at the plate," Westlake said. "He brings energy to the plate, the field and he's ready to work every single day. He provides a positive environment for the guys around him. They'll get someone who is ready to work. Guys like that fuel guys around him."
Valdez said playing for a major league club would be a dream, but more importantly, it would be a dream for him and his family.
Valdez credits his loved ones for playing baseball in the United States and doing it for a organization like the Astros.
"My grandpa always believed I would play in the big leagues one day since I was a kid," Valdez said. "He always played with me in the neighborhoods and I know he's looking down on me. Hopefully I can make him happy by making it to the big leagues."
Rey Castillo is a sports reporter for the Caller-Times and a graduate of Texas A&M-Kingsville. He may be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @reycastillo361
This article originally appeared on Corpus Christi Caller Times: Enmanuel Valdez providing spark for Corpus Christi Hooks