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Framber Valdez stayed true to his pledge to build a church in his hometown

By Jerry Crasnick

Long before Framber Valdez began focusing on building arm strength and a pitch arsenal, he was obsessed with . . . well . . . building. His mother sold empanadas and juices at her coffee shop and his father ran a construction business in the town of Sabana Grande de Palenque in the Dominican Republic, and young Framber developed a fascination with houses and all the work and foresight that went into creating them from scratch.


He also embraced his Christian faith, and at age 14 he began attending a local church where the motto was “Camino al Cielo’’ (or “Pathway to Heaven”). The church was made of wood, with torn music sheets, ripped chairs and a dirt floor that was moldy from water damage. Amid the squalor, he promised his friend and mentor, Pastor Antonio, that he would one day reach the major leagues and give back to the community in a tangible way.


“I had always asked God to continue helping and blessing me, and in return I would build a church in Guayacanes for Pastor Antonio,’’ Valdez said in a Spanish-language interview. “Right now, I’m fulfilling this goal. I’m very focused on two things -- my career and building this church.’’


Valdez, 28, is thriving professionally as a member of the Houston Astros’ starting rotation. He set career highs in 2021 with an 11-6 record, a 3.14 ERA, 22 starts, 134 2/3 innings and 125 strikeouts, and started two games against Atlanta in the World Series. Although he failed to reach the third inning in either outing, he filed away the experience as a future opportunity for growth.

But first things first. Day after day this offseason, Valdez heads to the church site and oversees the buzz of activity as resident construction foreman. With input and counsel from his father, he’s building a 1,500-foot structure with room for about 50 parishioners.