As Shohei Ohtani, 29, nears the highest contract in North American sports history beyond Major League Baseball, attention is turning to his agent’s tumultuous life story.

Japanese media outlet Full Count reported on Friday that “Ohtani’s agent has a heroic past, having once abandoned a major league career after suffering a full-body fracture,” and highlighted the story of Nez Valero, 60.

Ohtani is the hottest topic in Major League Baseball these days, and the total amount of money he is expected to receive has already surpassed $500 million (about 65.23 billion won). On the first day of the Winter Meetings, news broke that another big-market team, the Atlanta Braves, had joined the Winter Meetings, raising the possibility that Ohtani could become the first player in baseball history to receive $600 million (KRW 78.27 billion).

Valero, who represents him at his agency, CAA, is laughing all the way to the bank. With a typical agent’s commission of 5 percent, Valero would receive $30 million (about KRW 39.5 billion) if he surpasses the $600 million mark.레모나토토

According to The Athletic, Valero’s life hasn’t always been smooth sailing. He was once a promising infield prospect. He joined the Seattle Mariners in the fourth round of the 1985 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, competing for a spot in the big leagues with Omar Vizquel, 56, who would later collect 11 Gold Gloves at shortstop.

He showed promise, reaching Double-A within a year of joining the team, but the 23-year-old Valero was newlywed and earning too little to support a family. Like many minor leaguers, Valero worked odd jobs on the side, until he tripped on a construction site and fell 40 feet, suffering a broken back, pelvis, and ribs, along with a severe concussion.

After spending 17 days in the hospital, he rehabbed and returned to the field, but never regained his form and was released by Seattle in 1988. He later played in the Italian league, but eventually retired at the age of 27 and became an agent.

The players who played alongside Valero have not forgotten him. “I didn’t speak English very well at the time, but Valero taught me enthusiastically,” Venezuelan Bizquel told The Athletic. He was very outgoing and optimistic, always talking to everyone and being friendly, so I’m not surprised that Valero was successful as an agent.”

As Valero rose through the ranks as an agent, in 2017 he met someone who would make a huge impact on his career. Ohtani was on his way to the major leagues. Ohtani was a two-hitter in Nippon Professional Baseball, but most major league teams didn’t think it was a viable option at the time. The Athletic wrote, “In 2018, Ohtani’s two-hitter was more of an idea than a reality. But Valero made it a possibility, and the Los Angeles Angels made it a reality.”

Valero’s resourcefulness in securing the no-holds-barred two-tasking deal made Major League Baseball history. For six seasons, Ohtani performed a two-hitter that hadn’t been realized since Babe Ruth, winning an unprecedented two unanimous MVP awards. In 701 career games as a hitter, he batted .274 with 171 home runs, 437 RBI, 428 runs scored, 86 doubles, a .366 on-base percentage, .556 slugging percentage, and a .922 OPS, and as a pitcher, he went 38-19 with a 3.01 ERA and 608 strikeouts in 481⅔ innings.

For now, the race to sign Ohtani has been relatively quiet for a player of his size and reputation. Recently, the field has been narrowed down to five teams – the Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Toronto Blue Jays, and San Francisco – and Valero has reportedly been traveling with Ohtani to each of those clubs’ home ballparks. It wasn’t until a day later, on the fourth, that it was revealed that he had visited San Francisco’s home ballpark, Oracle Park, on the third and met with senior team officials, including general manager Farhan Zaidi, new manager Bob Melvin, and Buster Posey, suggesting tight security.

“A man whose baseball career has had its share of twists and turns holds the keys to Ohtani’s big day,” Full Count wrote, noting that Valero and Ohtani could have a second happy ending.

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