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Franco Valdes has been a solid contributor at catcher for the last two years. He always has been a vocal leader while working well with the Cavaliers’ pitching staff, but it has been his bat that has gotten notoriety of late. Last week, Valdes was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Irvine Regional after going 5-for-11 with four RBI. He had a key two-run single in the Saturday win over No. 1 UC Irvine, then came up with two run-scoring hits (double, triple) in the regional championship game against UC Irvine. As the Cavaliers head into their first-ever super regional this weekend at Ole Miss, Valdes always a character talks with

How has the coaching staff helped you grow into your role?
It is kind of like that tough love people talk about, especially coming from [Coach McMullan]. He played pro ball with my high school coach back in Miami. It’s the same approach that I have been taught since high school, so it’s something that I am used to. Coming over here and having [Coach Kuhn] and [Coach McMullan] and [Coach O’Connor] all up on me all the time has really helped me out. It has gotten me here and it drives me to play everyday.

You and John Hicks have each spent a lot of time behind the plate this year. What has been the positive impact of working for that starting role?
I remember last year I didn’t start the first game. I wasn’t the starting catcher. It took some time to get used to [Coach Kuhn] and get the system going to come out and play. This year it was me and [John Hicks]. [John] is a great defensive catcher and a great hitter. It was just going to be between me and him, and me teaching him how to get used to this for whenever I leave.

What have been the benefits of starting Hicks on Saturdays?
Compared to last year where I caught every game after the beginning, this year was a lot easier for me to be able to rest.

What is your role as the teams’ emotional leader?
Valdes: Loud Cubans, you know. I am the loudest guy out here and I push guys. I push them until they can’t take it. It helps them and it helps me control the game. It helps them get better.

Tell us about the honor of winning the Most Outstanding Player award at the Irvine Regional.
They gave it to me for whatever reason, but basically it’s the pitcher’s job. All I’m doing is helping them get through the game.

You had a huge triple in the regional championship game. Talk about flying around the bases.
Valdes: It’s all about the speed. I’m a speed demon, you know.

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