Dec. 15, 2008
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Former UC Santa Barbara baseball standout Chris Valaika was named the Cincinnati Reds' Minor League Player of the Year for 2008.
Valaika, 23, last season played at Class A Sarasota and Class AA Chattanooga. In 129 games the Florida State League All-Star hit .317 with 18 home runs, 81 RBI and nine stolen bases. Valaika led all Reds Minor League batters in hitting and ranked second in RBI. He played for the U.S. team in the prestigious XM All-Star Futures Game at Yankee Stadium. Following the season, he played for Peoria in the Arizona Fall League and in 32 games hit .311 with two home runs and 16 RBI.
Valaika was selected by the Reds in the third round of the June 2006 First-Year Player Draft after a terrific career at UCSB. In his final year with the Gauchos, Valaika hit .335 and led the team with 10 home runs and 57 RBI.
"We are very excited for him," UCSB head coach Bob Brontsema said. "It is an incredibly prestigious award and a great honor. I know he'd trade it all in for a long major league career, but he's worked very hard and he's very deserving of this award."
The Reds' Minor League player of the year award is named after Sheldon "Chief" Bender, who spent 64 years in baseball. He spent his last 39 years in the game with the Reds in their scouting and player development departments.
Valaika joins an exclusive group of Reds players who have won this award and gone on to successful major league careers including Austin Kearns (2000), Adam Dunn (2001), Homer Bailey (2006) and Jay Bruce (2007).
UCSB - a nationally recognized university in both academic and athletic excellence - is located on the central coast of California in a picturesque campus and community setting on the Pacific Ocean. Each year over 450 Division 1 Gaucho student-athletes compete for national championships, succeed in the classroom, and give back to the community.