Valentin Put Heart into Horseshoes as Youngest Player for Deep River
This summer across the shoreline within the Deep River Horseshoe League, one of the biggest stories of the campaign was the rapid and meteoric rise and emergence of a young prodigy within the pits.
Matt Valentin grew up playing sports sparingly in middle school with baseball and soccer until his cousin encouraged him to get involved with horseshoes because Matt was previously playing cornhole. The Westbrook resident and league rookie’s lowest score was in Week 1, and he culminated with his highest score in Week 17, when he hit the 100-point mark, which is a rare feat for a “C” Division player. The 100-point series, along with 24 ringers and two doubles, proved to be instrumental in the Rockies making the playoffs. What’s even more impressive about it is that Matt made large contributions while being the league’s youngest player at 16 years old, serving as a utility substitute player for any squad who was in need of a fill-in.
“I started off rough, but everyone was super supportive and encouraging,” says Matt. “I started off a little intimidated because of all the older players and that they had been there for a while. But they gave me tips and helped me with different throwing styles, like turnshoes and multi-flips. I kept trying to get the rhythm down and deciding what style worked for me with throwing and where I stood where I threw. It was weird being the youngest player and hearing guys talk about their kids when I was in high school and just learning to drive. But I started getting more comfortable with the players and knowing their names and asking how their day or weekend was.”
No matter the background of the various players through the league ranks, the common theme from Matt’s perspective has been kindness and closeness amongst a special family of people in his short stay in the league thus far.
“There are a lot of people in the league of all different types and ages, and they all get along very well,” Matt says. “Everyone is always cheering each other on, which is what I noticed bouncing around as a sub from team to team. There is a lot going on at one time, but it is always a very friendly atmosphere and a great place to hang out.”
League member and mainstay Joseph Heery notes that Matt made a great first impression with him, as Matt took the opportunity to learn the sport and the league’s rules and regulations head-on in order to better himself–quickly establishing himself as an up-and-coming star in Deep River.
“I first met Matt in early April when he established his average. In that first meeting, he was learning how the play proceeded and, some of the rules, and some tips to improve his game. It was obvious to me he was interested in learning, and as the season rolled on, he became a real student of the game,” says Heery. “Matt got to participate as a substitute in 13 of the 17 weeks and with nine different teams, and he took advantage of those matches to learn various aspects of the game from some of the league’s best players. Because of an injury to a player on the Rockies late in the season, Matt got to finish as his substitute. I have yet to find any league player who has not been impressed by his performance. He is a breath of fresh air for the league. The average
“C” Division player only scores 61 points for the night, and after 13 weeks, he has gone from 47 to 60 points per match. We will be looking forward to seeing how he has progressed next season.”
Matt notes when he first took his initial trek on this journey, he could not even muster much movement on his shoes before he took his time, stayed patient, and figured out what stature and motion worked best for him to craft marked improvements in his overall numbers.
“When I started, I could not even make the shoe flip; I would just throw it and it would do whatever it wanted. I started with a 14-point average, but I figured out the distance I was comfortable throwing from and getting my step down,” says Matt. “I then got better at my scores and the type of shoes I can throw. I went from averaging around a 55 before I had my first 100-point game, and my average got into the 70s. I am hoping to get better and become more smooth with it.”
As Matt looks to move forward towards finding a permanent home in the league and establishing himself as a more permanent fixture next spring and summer, he will do it with the same laid-back and fun-first approach that carried him so far in such a short tenure as a rookie.
“I hope to become a full-time player next year and be a bigger part of the league,” Matt says. “My No. 1 goal, though, is to become more consistent with the way I throw. No. 2, I want to become a player on my own team with players. Right now, I am a “C” Division player, and then hopefully get better to become a “B” Division athlete, and then hopefully “A.” I will just see how I do and what I can do with my skill level.”