The Santa Clarita Valley has been no stranger to young athletic talent.
Hart High School’s baseball squad has helped contribute to that success, offering a plethora of talent to play as far as Major League Baseball.
James Shields (Tampa Bay Rays) and Jerry Owens (Washington Nationals) are just a couple of Hart High’s baseball alumni to make it to the prestigious goal of playing in the Major Leagues.
Although a number of Hart Baseball alumni have been able to reach that goal, there has yet to be a set of brothers come from a Santa Clarita high school to reach that goal.
Patrick Valaika, a varsity shortstop on Hart’s baseball team, can get one step closer in changing that, come graduation.
Pat, soon to be the third in a trio of Valaika brothers to have played ball at Hart, is taking his game one step higher.
Having recently earned a scholarship to play for top ten powerhouse UCLA, Pat has a lot to look forward to.
“I’m just excited. I don’t have to worry about showing off anymore, I already got my scholarship, so I just get to play and have fun. Hopefully when I get there I get to start and make an impact,” Pat says.
Being the second youngest in a quad set of Valaika brothers, he feels no pressure being in his older brothers shadows.
In fact, according to Pat, they are guys he looks up to for instruction and support.
“They got my name out there and they really help me a lot during the season if I ever need any help with my swing, my fielding, I should go right to them and they’ll help me. It’s great having older brothers that have success,” Pat says.
Chris Valaika, the oldest Valaika brother, currently plays in the Cincinnati Reds minor league system and had gone to college at UC Santa Barbara.
Matt Valaika, the second oldest, had recently been drafted by the Cincinnati Reds, having followed his brother Chris’ footsteps also having gone to UC Santa Barbara.
To give an example of the Valaika brothers’ success, Matt led the UCSB Gauchos with a .347 batting average, six home runs, and 45 RBIs in just 50 games in his Junior year.
Older brother Chris, is batting .342 with 39 hits in 32 games this season for the Cincinnati Reds’ triple-A team, the Louisville Bats.
All which makes for the youngest brother, eighth grader Nicky Valaika, having a lot to look up to.
Hart High’s head baseball coach, Jim Ozella, has been given the opportunity to work with the oldest three Valaika brothers, with youngest, Nicky, on the way.
If one man were able to describe the comparisons of Pat to his older brothers, within the realm of baseball, it would be Coach Ozella.
“He’s very comparable. All three of the brothers are outstanding defensive players, all a little bit different in their own way. […] They all work hard, all are full max guys, full effort all the time. They’re all competitive and all want to win,” Coach Ozella says.
Heading into the end of the season on the Hart High baseball team, Pat currently has a .297 batting average, 14 stolen bases in 15 attempts, and a team best 14 runs batted in.
He has also been awarded second team all league honors last year.
Although his personal achievements may be impressive, Pat will tell you what really matters.
“I don’t really focus on awards it just matters about winning and losing,” Pat says.
When it comes his time to play at UCLA, Pat will be able to play alongside local company with former Hart baseball players Trevor Brown and Trevor Bauer.
Pat has helped, not only the winning tradition at Hart, but the successful tradition of the Valaika family.
While not entirely following in his brothers footsteps, by not playing for UCSB, he still has the chance of following them elsewhere.
That is, to a Major League Baseball team.