Valiquette on his way back

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:16 AM ET

ANAHEIM — The 2006 class-A Dayton Dragons roster, from opening day to season’s end, consisted of 25 Americans, nine Latins and one teenager from Quebec.

By July, Phillippe-Alexandre Valiquette had had enough. He headed home to Montreal.

“I told manager Bill Gardner I was leaving. It wasn’t that players didn’t like me, but I was 18 my first year there, most of the others were 22,” Valiquette said while sitting in the World dugout before the 12th annual XM Futures Game on Sunday afternoon at Anaheim Stadium.

There were 50 players selected to the Futures rosters from 11 different countries.

Only one got fed up enough with the business of baseball to head home, climb back on the mound and get invited to this top-prospects bash, part of all-star game festivities.

“The players were older and would go to the bar, I wasn’t part of their group,” Valiquette said. “I didn’t feel comfortable with them. I wasn’t getting along with the manager and I had personal stuff to take care of at home.”

Valiquette was one of three Canadians invited — same as the great state of Texas — along with former Milwaukee Brewers No. 1 pick, second baseman Brett Lawrie of Langley, B.C., and Vancouver’s Trystan Magnuson a Blue Jays farmhand at double-A

New Hampshire.

Valiquette, like Roy Halladay demoted to class-A Dunedin, has climbed through the system twice. He’s at triple-A Louisville, one step away from the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.

“English Canadians have an easier time adapting,” Valiquette said. “I spoke English when I signed, but coming from Montreal you are used to speaking French, you are used to your own culture.

“Latin players may come from different countries but they all speak the same language.”

Jean-Paul Valiquette told his son he should go back with the Reds. So did Reds scouts Ray Callari, Jason Baker and Bill Byckowksi.

Ditto for Terry Reynolds, who took over player development in 2007 after being scouting director when the Reds selected Valiquette in the seventh round in 2004 and gave him a $400,000 US signing bonus.

At home, Valiquette worked with his father, a carpenter, and worked with his friends fixing cars.

“Finally, something clicked. I took care of my problem and decided I wanted to play,” he said. “But it was so close to the start of spring training and I hadn’t thrown. I said I’d go to extended spring.”

There he worked with pitching coach Rico Beltran, who like Richard Emond and Denis Boucher at the Academy Baseball Canada, refined his delivery and headed to Billings in 2007 where he broke in, in 2005.

‘Nothing to lose’

“I had nothing to lose. I had a lot of determination and wanted to see how far I could go,” said Valiquette, a lefty, who usually throws his fastball at 96 m.p.h.

At Five County Stadium in Zebulon, N.C., fans would gasp when the speed reading on the board would show 104.

“Our gun was a little off, but I’ve hit 100 legit,” he said.

Looking somewhat like a young B.J. Ryan, Valiquette’s fastball was 93 to 96 m.p.h. in the seventh on Sunday at the Futures Game.

He retired the Twins

double-A outfielder Ben Revere on a fly to centre, walked the Marlins triple-A first baseman Logan Morrison and got Danny Espinosa, the Nationals double-A shortstop, on a grounder.

Valiquette was visiting his fifth major league stadium. He’s been to Olympic Stadium, Turner Field with the Canadian junior team, when he was named MVP in 2004, Comerica Park, when the midget nationals played in Windsor, and Cincinnati, when the Reds stopped by after their own Futures Game.

Angels Stadium likely won’t be his last.

“My father always said I had a future in baseball,” the Futures Game participant said.


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