June 2, 2004
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -
UC Santa Barbara freshman shortstop Chris Valaika has been invited to participate in the 2004 USA Baseball National Team Trials, to be held June 20-26 in Durham, North Carolina, it was announced Wednesday.
Valaika, the 2004 Big West Freshman of the Year, will be one of 36 players trying out for the official 20-man roster that will be selected following the trials and announced on June 27. The team will open play against Canada on Wednesday, June 23 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Team USA will also play an additional seven games in Durham, along with several more domestic exhibition games prior to representing the United States at the 2004 II FISU World University Baseball Championships in Chinese Taipei, July 23-August 1.
In his first season at UCSB, Valaika batted .347 with seven home runs and 38 RBI. He set a UCSB freshman record for most hits in a season with 77, a figure that ranks eighth on the Big West Conference's all-time freshman list. In addition, the Newhall, Calif., native stroked 15 doubles, the second-most ever by a Gaucho freshman. Valaika ranked in the Big West top-ten in hits, slugging percentage, runs scored and total bases. He had numerous multi-hit games in his initial campaign, including a 3-for-4 effort with two runs scored against Long Beach State's Jered Weaver, the probable first pick in this year's Major League Baseball Draft.
"Chris had a great year for us and this is a very exciting opportunity for him," said UCSB baseball coach Bob Brontsema. "He is the whole package as a player."
The 2004 USA Baseball National Team will be coached by Loyola Marymount's Frank Cruz. To this point, 28 players have been chosen for the 36 tryout spots with eight more yet to be selected. The full roster of the 28 invitees is available at www.usabaseball.com/natl_players.html.