Former Gaucho Chris Valaika Makes MLB Debut, Records First Hit
Aug. 25, 2010
Former UC Santa Barbara standout Chris Valaika was recalled from Class AAA Louisville on Tuesday evening to join the Cincinnati Reds in San Francisco, the first time he has been called up to the majors.
Valaika made his Major League Baseball debut in Tuesday's game at AT&T Park, pinch-hitting in the sixth inning and lining the very first pitch he saw into centerfield for a single off of Giants pitcher Santiago Castilla.
To see Valaika's first big league hit, please click here.
"It's been an awesome day so far. I haven't even gotten to the game yet," a smiling Valaika said.
This is Valaika's first big league promotion. In 118 games this season, he batted .304 with four home runs, 53 RBIs and .330 on-base percentage. He was the organization's Minor League Player of the Year in 2008.
Valaika was originally signed as a shortstop, but has played mostly second base this season. He was chosen over left-handed-hitting third baseman Juan Francisco, in part because the Reds have only one healthy true shortstop in Paul Janish with Orlando Cabrera on the DL. Janish has played every inning since Cabrera went down.
"It's another right-handed bat, especially these next two days with left-handed starters," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. "Plus, he's had a great year. He deserves an opportunity. And he's versatile."
Louisville had just returned from a road trip in Indianapolis when Valaika was reached by a 3 a.m. phone call from Bats manager Rick Sweet.
"I was unpacking. Sweet called me and told to start packing," said Valaika, at his locker with his new No. 3 jersey hanging. "We were watching the game on the bus. You see things happen but you never know what's going to happen. Leaving the stadium, nobody knew. It was nice to get a phone call a couple of hours later."
Valaika, who turned 25 on Aug. 14, struggled last season at Louisville while batting .235 and missing six weeks with a broken right hand suffered when punching a water cooler in frustration.
"I think last year was a big-time learning experience for me," Valaika said. "I think of all the years playing, it helped me the most having failed like that. I learned some adversity and be able to come back. I learned how to move on when you don't get a hit instead of dwelling in the past."
Parts of this story came courtesy of Mark Sheldon, MLB.com.