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Hart’s Valaika commits to UCLA

One season left with Indians, infielder latest in family to play in college

Posted: August 8, 2009 7:58 p.m.
Updated: August 9, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Hart infielder Pat Valaika hits against Valencia on April 22 at Hart High. The senior-to-be committed to play baseball at UCLA on Wednesday.

 
Soon-to-be Hart senior Pat Valaika continued his family’s tradition of playing baseball at the collegiate level when he committed Wednesday to play at the University of California, Los Angeles.

His older brothers both have spent years on the diamond at University of California, Santa Barbara, but Pat chose UCLA because he felt like the program was the best fit for him.

“I just had a gut feeling about UCLA,” Valaika said. “I wanted to continue the family tradition. It was something I definitely thought about, but my heart has been leading me this way, and it just seemed like the best spot for me.”

Valaika also considered a trio of other colleges in California because he wanted to stay close to his family.

“I’ve been talking with my brothers about the decision,” Valaika said. “I’m excited that I’m getting to play near my home so my brothers can come see me play when they’re in town visiting the family.”

By committing before his senior year of high school begins, Valaika leaves himself added time to work on his game.

He is focused on working on his defense and building his speed.

“UCLA is getting a very polished player,” said Hart head coach Jim Ozella. “He can play shortstop, second base and third base. He does all of them well. He is a player who can do a lot of good things. He’s excellent at executing and knows how to play the game. He swings the bat well, steals bases and can make plays at several positions.”

The early commitment also means Valaika can dedicate more time to his team’s success.

He is still focused on the Indians’ upcoming season above anything else.

“The thing I want the most is a Foothill League championship next season,” Valaika said. “Now, I don’t have to worry about where I’m going to go for college, I can really lock in on making that happen.”

Valaika hit .371 in his junior season with the Indians, slugging .528.

Ozella is confident that the infielder will continue to improve.

“He’s a field rat,” Ozella said. “He is focused on dedication, and there aren’t many players that are the total package like he is. He is also a great leader.”

Valaika’s dedication keeps him driven to improve his game.

“I have to keep getting better at everything,” Valaika said. “I want to just play the game hard and to the highest of my ability.”

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