STUARTS DRAFT — Jaily Paredes knew virtually nothing about the Shenandoah Valley or, for that matter, Virginia before spending the 2019 summer in Staunton pitching for the Braves in the Valley Baseball League.
Now, the native of the Dominican Republic has found a second home.
"They say Virginia is for lovers. Now I say I love Virginia," Paredes said after a recent Stuarts Draft Diamondbacks game in the Rockingham County Baseball League.
A hard-throwing right-hander, Paredes played junior college baseball at Cecil Community College in Maryland before venturing south to play in Staunton.
Paredes struggled with his command at times in the Valley League, but there were stretches where he was dominant. In 24.2 innings pitched, he struck out 32 batters, but walked 22.
In the VBL playoffs, Paredes had to pick up a bat when the Braves had just 10 players left in the town. In 11 at-bats, he had four hits, including a pair of homers.
"I had never played baseball like we played in Staunton," Paredes said of the quality of competition in the Valley League. "That helped me so much to get better. I was really happy to play in Staunton. When I went to college I was really ready to play and that's because I got better last summer."
At the end of the VBL season, Paredes left for Mid-America Christian University, an NAIA program in Oklahoma City.
"It's not a big school, but I liked it there," Paredes said. "We had a good team and the coaches were great. It was good baseball. I liked Oklahoma."
Once the NAIA baseball season started, he turned in dominant performances both on the mound and at the plate. Twice, he was named the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) Player of the Week — once as a pitcher and once as a hitter.
At the plate, Paredes was hitting .372 with five home runs and 20 RBIs in 23 games. On the mound, he led the Evangels with a 0.99 ERA in 27.1 innings. Armed with a 93-94 miles per heater, Paredes struck out 32 batters and walked just 10. He was 2-1 with two saves.
MACU was 21-10 when the season was shut down due to the pandemic.
"Things were going pretty good until the COVID-19 went crazy," Paredes said. "I got to hit and that's a lot of fun and I was pitching like I had never pitched before. I was having a pretty nice season."
Paredes lived with Raider and Kim Campbell and family during his summer with the Staunton Braves and as soon as the Campbells found out the college season was cancelled, they were on the phone with Paredes.
"We were actually racing at Dominion Motorsports Park back in March when we saw that his season had been cancelled," Raider Campbell recalled. "We didn’t want Jaily to be stuck out in the Oklahoma with nowhere to go so we asked him if he wanted to come stay with us and we flew him into Richmond the next day. "
Paredes was already set to return to Staunton for the 2020 Valley League season and the trip back to the Valley in March meant he got to spend a couple extra months with his host family.
Them, in early April, the Valley League announced the cancellation of its season, leaving Paredes without a place to play summer ball.
Gerald Harman, general manager of the Woodstock Riverbandits put Paredes in touch with Les Sandridge, head coach of the Diamondbacks.
"Gerald saw me last summer in Woodstock and he liked the way I pitched," Paredes explained. "He got me in touch with Les (Sandridge) and I got a spot playing for the Diamondbacks."
Paredes was thankful to find a place to play baseball this summer and to have the opportunity to spend more time with his host family.
"Raider and his family are so good to me. They are a great family," Paredes said. "They come to the games when they can and they always encourage me. If I need anything, they are there for me. I appreciate them so much."
The Campbells were just as excited to have Paredes in Staunton for an extended period.
"Jaily is a very polite, respectful young man," Campbell said. "He helps out around the house and he keeps things neat and clean. My little granddaughter and Jaily just love each other. They have developed a special bond."
Paredes is concentrating on pitching this summer and still entertains thoughts of playing at the next level.
"I'll hit when I get back to school because it's fun," he said, "but this summer I am trying to keep my arm in shape and work on my pitching. I would like to get a chance to play pro ball and I think I have a better chance as a pitcher."
Through his first four appearances this summer with the Diamondbacks, Paredes had a 3.21 ERA in 14 innings pitched. He has struck out 23 batters and walked 14.
"Jaily loves playing baseball and getting to play some this summer and stay sharp was a good opportunity for him," said Campbell. "He’s enjoying his summer. He’s one of those kids who you want to see succeed and get that chance to play pro ball."
Once his playing days are over, Paredes has an idea of where he might settle down.
"I love Virginia," he said. "I feel like I am part of Virginia now. I have a girlfriend in Virginia. I think someday, this might be where I live."