What's more, he's achieved all this without feeling any of the pressure of following in his father's famous footsteps. "Fernando loves to talk about his dad," says Schlossnagle. "He's always talking about what an honor it is to have the same name." Says Dad, "I've always tried to give my son space. I don't want him to play this sport because I did. I want him to feel it. To carry it in his blood."
Fernandito is 20 now, the age at which his father made his spectacular debut with the Dodgers. But whereas Fernando grew up the youngest of 12 children crammed into a five-room adobe farm house in Etchohuaquila, Mexico, Fernandito was nurtured in an eight-bedroom LA. manse. ("I've had it much easier," he says. "I got a chance to go to college. My dad didn't have that opportunity.") Valenzuela credits his wife's business savvy for enabling the family to live well since the end of his major league career. In the mid-1980s Linda persuaded her husband to invest in real estate, and she laid the groundwork for a realty business that has grown to include residential complexes in three states.
The Valenzuelas also still own the small ranch-style Hollywood house they bought 15 years ago to serve as an office. It houses a Fernandomania museum of sorts, displaying his Cy Young trophy, plus magazine covers and a photo gallery of memorable moments on and off the field (including shots of Valenzuela meeting with presidents Reagan, Bush Sr. and Clinton). It's a comfortable setting for Valenzuela to meet with business associates and visiting media, and it's also where he sifts through boxes of fan mail and signs each ball and magazine cover that arrives with suitable return packaging.
The Dodgers recently announced that Valenzuela will be making a comeback with the team, not as a pitcher but as a pitchman, representing the club at civic functions and charity events as well as working as an analyst on the Spanish-language radio network that broadcasts L.A. games. "We've been trying to find the perfect situation for Fernando," said Derrick Hall, the Dodgers' senior V.P of communications. "This fits his personality well, and he will bring magic to what is already the best Spanish broadcast team in baseball."
El Toro still has his passion for the game, but he's happy enough now just to watch it and contribute in smaller ways. Fernando has given way to Fernandito, and there is comfort in knowing that the Valenzuela legacy is in soft hands.