June 6, 2006
Santa Barbara, Calif. - UC Santa Barbara shortstop Chris Valaika made Gaucho history today when the Cincinnati Reds selected him in the third round of today's Major League Baseball Rule V Amateur Draft.
The native of Valencia, Calif., was the 84th overall selection, the second-highest any UCSB baseball player has ever been taken in the June Amateur Draft. Maury Ornest was drafted in the second round of the 1980 June Amateur Draft
"This is a great accomplishment when you consider all of the great players who have come through this program and been drafted," UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. "This is a great and well-deserved accomplishment and we're all very happy for him."
With rumors circling all year about where he would go in the draft, going in the third round was a pleasant surprise for Valaika who was the seventh shortstop taken in the draft.
"I was extremely surprised. I had heard everything from Top-10 to Top-8 to Top-5, so to go in the third round is a bit of a surprise," Valaika said.
In 2006, Valaika was a First Team All-Big West Conference selection a year after sitting out the majority of the 2005 season with an injured knee.
"His dedication towards his comeback caused an amazing transformation in him. He committed himself 100-percent in that process," Brontsema said. "He pushed his ceiling of fitness and play to a level that I'm not sure he even thought he could reach. What Chris found out is that there is more there and with a player who has that kind of work ethic, there is no telling what he can accomplish."
Valaika was second on the team in terms of batting average with a .335 mark in 2006 and his 57 RBIs led the Big West. As a Gaucho rookie in 2004, Valaika was a Freshman All-American as well as the Big West's Freshman of the Year.