Trying to find a truly “forgotten” player or pitcher from the 2001-02 Philadelphia Phillies ball clubs is not an easy task. Turns out that those first two competitive teams in the club’s decade-long winning era were stocked with players who were either veterans at the time or who would enjoy a solid big-league career.
The least impactful position player from the 2002 team and thus the “Phillies 50” series entry from that group is outfielder Eric Valent, who was the subject of our “10 Questions With …” interview series back on April 13 of this year.
Valent was the Phillies supplemental first round choice at 42nd overall in the 1998 MLB Amateur Draft out of UCLA. That was the same year the club held the first overall selection, which they used to pick Pat Burrell.
At UCLA, Valent had been a teammate of future Phillies second baseman Chase Utley and MLB stars Troy Glaus and Eric Byrnes. He would rise incrementally through the minor league system before getting his first big-league opportunity in the 2001 season.
Valent would be called up to the Phillies on three different occasions in that 2001 campaign. In mid-June he was with the club for a week as they traveled to Boston and Tampa Bay and would be using a Designated Hitter. He served in that role and gave Burrell a break in left field on that trip.
He was brought back up again in July and spent two weeks with the club, appearing in 11 more games. Called up in September when rosters expanded, Valent would make another five appearances. In all he appeared in 22 games as a rookie in that 2001 season.
In the 2002 campaign, Valent spent nearly the entire year with a Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre team that reached the International League playoffs for a third straight year. Once the Red Barons were eliminated in the postseason he was called back up to the Phillies.
Valent’s entire contribution to that disappointing 2002 Phillies ball club consisted of 10 plate appearances over seven games. He appeared as a pinch-hitter in most of those, also making two appearances in right field and one at first base as a defensive replacement.
In that handful of games, Valent produced just two hits and one run scored. Over his two seasons with the Phillies at the MLB level he slashed just .118/.196/.157 with six hits (two doubles), four runs, and one RBI.
Back at Triple-A for the 2003 season, Valent was dealt away to the Cincinnati Reds on the waiver deadline of August 31 in exchange for veteran catcher Kelly Stinnett. The Reds gave him another big-league shot in September with 18 games, including eight starts in right field.
Four months later he was chosen by the New York Mets in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. The Mets would give him his only regular opportunity in Major League Baseball in the 2004 season.
That year he made 56 starts and appeared in 130 games, slamming 13 homers and producing 30 extra-base hits over 300 plate appearances. Also during the 2004 campaign, Valent experienced a career highlight when he hit for ‘the Cycle’ on July 29 in Montreal.
In 2005, Valent saw his action limited to just 28 games with the Mets, the final games of his five-year career in Major League Baseball. Granted free agency after that season he signed with the San Diego Padres and played in their minor league system in 2006.
Released that May, Valent went over to Japan and appeared in 24 games with Rakuten. He would retire following the 2006 season at age 29. Since retiring, Valent has gotten into the scouting and player development game. You can read all about it in the interview piece linked earlier in this article.