One of my favorite baseball players is not a guy a lot of people have heard of. Most Reds fans remember him from last season, but they don’t know a lot about him. Every Bats game I go to I sit by the dugout and have a 30 second to 2 minute conversation with this guy as he signs autographs. When he walks away, every kid with a ball and sharpie is running back to their parents to show their new piece of memorabilia. People ask me, “That guy is so nice, who is that?” The guy’s name is Chris Valaika—one of the nicest people I’ve ever come across at a baseball game.
Chris is a humble man. He never complains. He just goes out on the field and takes care of business. And he does a pretty good job at it.
After graduating from Hart High School in Newall, CA, Chris attended UC-Santa Barbara and was drafted by the Reds in the 3rd round of the 2006 June Amateur Draft. He played 70 games for Billings (Rk) and hit .324 with a .387 OBP. His second professional season saw him hit .284 with a .385 OBP as he moved from Dayton (A) to Sarasota (A+), combining to play 136 games. In 2008, Chris started the season with Sarasota. After hitting .363 with 7 HR and 31 RBI and an OBP of .393 in just 32 games, Chris was moved up to Chattanooga (AA). There he hit .301 with a .352 OBP, 11 HR, and 50 RBI. Valaika was named the Reds’ Minor League Player of the Year and was also selected to the All Star Futures Game in 2008.
Chris spent the entire 2009 season with Louisville (AAA) but saw a decline in his production, partly due to missing six weeks because of a fractured right hand he suffered in May. He played just 95 games and hit only .235 with an OBP of .271. Chris returned back to form in 2010 with a .304 average and .330 OBP in 118 games for the Bats. Then Chris got the call.
Chris was called up to the Reds on August 24 after Jim Edmonds went on the DL. In 19 games with the Reds, Chris hit .263 with a home-run and 2 RBI. He also posted an OBP of .282. It was the first time he’d ever been to the big leagues.
Now, you’re probably wondering why you should care about this guy—he isn’t exactly the best player in the Reds’ system. I cannot and will not argue that fact. But, what I like about Chris is the stuff you never hear about—the off-the-field stuff. That’s the stuff that makes him a great player in my book.
Chris is one of the nicest, coolest baseball players I’ve ever met. He comes out of the dugout before anyone else, signs every autograph request—and I mean every single autograph request—and will have conversations with fans. I’ve had many of these conversations with Chris. We talk about everything from baseball to basketball to football to life in general. These conversations are usually pretty short, but they have a great meaning to me, no matter how short they are.
The next time you see or hear about Chris Valaika, please remember reading this story. He may not be well-known for his skills on the diamond (at least not yet), but he is a great human being.
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