08/18/2020 9:00 AM -
Crestwood, Ill. – August 17, 2020 – The 2020 Midwest College League season marked a series of firsts for the Crestwood Panthers. The team set numerous franchise records throughout the course of the year, including longest winning streak, most single-season wins, and highest overall winning percentage. And now, the man who nearly led Crestwood to its first-ever postseason appearance is receiving the recognition that he deserves.
Manager Isaac Valdez has officially been named the 2020 MCL Manager of the Year, totaling the most votes in a selection process that featured input from league managers and broadcasters. This marks the first time that Valdez has won the award, and it comes on the heels of an unforgettable summer for the Panthers.
“It’s a great honor to win this award because you never do it by yourself,” Valdez said. “I don’t win this without the great talent we have, and the fact that they bought into our vision and message. This also doesn’t happen without my assistant Jameel Rush. He and I were always in constant communication, and we did everything possible to help the guys win lots of games.”
In Valdez’s two previous seasons at the helm, Crestwood went a combined 17-58-1, finishing last in the league standings and garnering little to no playoff attention. This year, however, that changed dramatically. Valdez led the team to an above .500 record at 17-14, kept the Panthers postseason eligible until the final two days of the season, and matched his career win total in the MCL, all while managing during a pandemic-shortened schedule.
“I absolutely loved every second of being on the field and being with this team,” Valdez said. “This has been the highlight of my year and I am ever so grateful that the season happened and that I was able to be with these guys in this league.”
Crestwood’s six-win uptick from 2019 also signified the second-consecutive year in which Valdez and his team displayed a net positive in total wins. Although incremental improvement was expected, the Panthers’ near-playoff run was not. That not only strengthened Valdez’s case, but, in fact, made him a clear favorite to come away with the award.
“Baseball has been my life’s work. So, to be recognized by my peers with this award is a great honor and a great feeling, Valdez said. “It may not be something that a manager strives to get at the beginning of the season, but when you do win it, it’s awesome, and I’m grateful.”
2020 was, by all accounts, the most successful season in Panthers history, and Valdez proved to be a driving force behind the team’s remarkable ascension. He is, without question, truly deserving of his new title as Manager of the Year.