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Valencia Casts Final Ballot for Baseball

August 04, 1988|TIM BROWN | Times Staff Writer

Here's a switch. Gil Valencia, Camarillo High's All-Coastal Conference wide receiver, played in the Shrine All-Star football game and shortly thereafter decided to quit football.

The Shrine game--where in the game program nearly every player has several capital letters after his name that denote which Division I power he will attend in the fall--is supposed to be a beginning, not an end.

But for Valencia the Shrine game was indeed an end. And baseball is now his means.

The decision appears to be the last in a series of determinations that started when all three county junior colleges--Oxnard, Ventura and Moorpark--courted the 6-foot, 170-pound Valencia, who initially chose Moorpark, where he was to play baseball and football. He then decided to enroll at Oxnard, where he would play baseball under Jerry White, a respected coach known to run a top-notch program. Since Oxnard has no football program, Valencia would have been allowed to play football at Moorpark as well.

Meanwhile, Valencia was the object of a decision himself, being chosen in baseball's amateur draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. Valencia passed on signing a professional baseball contract with the idea he could develop his skills further at Oxnard.

Then came the Shrine game and, perhaps, the final choice. He will play baseball at Oxnard. He will not play football anywhere.

So remember the final numbers: Valencia caught 41 passes for 705 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.

"I think it will be better for me," he said. "I think baseball is my best shot to make it. I went from American Legion to the Shrine and back to American Legion, and right there I felt that I like playing baseball better."

Valencia batted .378 with 7 home runs and 38 runs batted in for Camarillo, which failed to make the Southern Section 5-A Division playoffs.

Fate threw one final variable into Valencia's college equation when White officially resigned July 17. Oxnard assistant Rich Herrera, Valencia's American Legion Coach and confidante, also announced he was leaving Oxnard to continue his education.

"I had Gil for two years, and I think his sport is definitely baseball," said Herrera, who is close to the Valencia family. "It was a tough decision for him. Here you have an 18-year-old kid who loves two sports, baseball and football, and he's making an adult decision."

Valencia is counting on George Peraza, White's assistant for 12 years, to be named head coach, but said he likely would play at Oxnard regardless.

"I have a feeling I would go there, just because of their past," he said. "They play good competition and they're always good in league. But I'd be more comfortable if George was there.

"Once I'm there, I'd do my best. It doesn't matter who the coach is."

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