The Major League Baseball Draft is about a week-long process of teams picking and choosing from a pool of potential franchise players for the near future.
St. Francis High alumnus Sahid Valenzuela was part of that pool of talent, and was chosen in the 13th round by the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday.
“I was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe it,’” said Valenzuela when he first received the news. “All that hard work that I put in finally paid off. Just making my family proud and being able to fulfill this childhood dream, it’s great.”
Valenzuela, who played at Cal State Fullerton the past three seasons, said the best part was seeing how proud his family was when his name finally got called.
“My mom, my sister and dad all broke down,” he said.
Valenzuela said he’d been chatting with representatives of the A’s for quite some time and thought Oakland would be a good fit for him from the start.
“Hopefully everything goes good and I have a successful career with them and hopefully make it into the big leagues,” he said.
Other notable former Cal State Fullerton players currently playing on the A’s include Khris Davis and Matt Chapman.
Valenzuela admits the first couple of days of the draft were a bit stressful as he waited for phone calls from any of the MLB teams.
“But, it’s also exciting knowing that you’re name is going to get called,” he said. “Finally, when I got that phone call, I just had a lot of emotions going.”
Valenzuela said he got a phone call from the New York Mets during the fourth round but things didn’t work out.
“I’m satisfied with where I landed,” said Valenzuela about being drafted by Oakland. “Now it’s all up to me and how much work I put in on the road to the big leagues.”
Valenzuela is coming off a junior year in which an elbow injury kept him sidelined for a good portion of the season. But he still managed to hit .288 with a home run, 24 RBIs and 29 runs scored in 38 games played for the Titans.
Valenzuela had Tommy John surgery on May 2 and is currently going through the rehab process, which he said is going well.
Valenzuela said the injury might have affected his landing spot in the draft and perhaps now has a chip on his shoulder.
“But not necessarily,” he said. “They know what kind of player I am and that’s why they still took the chance after this injury.”
Valenzuela started in all 61 games as a sophomore. He led the team with 254 at-bats and finished the season hitting a .272 with 14 doubles, four triples and 22 RBIs
Valenzuela had an on-base percentage of .313 along with a .358 slugging percentage.
In his first year with the Titans, Valenzuela was named the Big West Conference Freshman Player of the Year. He was also selected to the All-Big West Conference First Team and named a Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American.
North Monterey County High baseball coach Alex Rivera has built a strong relationship with Valenzuela after the latter came from Yuma, Ariz. to Watsonville during his freshman year.
“It’s definitely been fun to watch, and kind of watching him develop throughout the years,” Rivera said.
Valenzuela was born in Yuma, but attended St. Francis High where he graduated in 2016. He played all four years on varsity at shortstop, second base, third base and center field.
Valenzuela was named to the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League All-League First Team in each of his four seasons with the Sharks.
St. Francis coach Kenny Nakagawa said it’s an accomplishment well deserved for his former player.
“Everybody that we played against knew that he was a special kid and we just knew that it was a matter of time before he was going to get an opportunity to play at the next level,” Nakagawa said.
Nakagawa congratulated Valenzuela with a phone call and told him all the hard work finally paid off.
“(Valenzuela) is just excited to start the next chapter in his life,” he said.
As a freshman at St. Francis, Valenzuela batted .402 with a home run, 13 RBI and 14 stolen bases. The following year, he batted .349 with nine RBI and 19 stolen bases.
Valenzuela showed what he can truly do during his junior year after he posted a .500 batting average with 20 RBI and 44 stolen bases. He was also named to the All-State team.
During his senior year, Valenzuela hit a .442 with a home run and 22 stolen bases. He was also named the MVP in the Great West League All-Star game.
“I think his work ethic alone to our program was huge and what it meant to be a baseball player here in our area,” Nakagawa said.
Rivera said he’s excited for Valenzuela to get the opportunity to play at the next level and fulfill a lifelong dream.
“It was just another stepping stone of what he’s gotta do to continue to go to the top,” Rivera said.
Rivera said he also spoke with Valenzuela for a brief moment and kept close communications with him throughout the process.
Rivera said they talked about going through so much together to get to where he’s at now, including the lack of sleep, the long drives and everything they could think of in his journey.
“It’s still kind of surreal,” Rivera said. “But I was never surprised, I knew that kid was special and I knew he had a lot in him.”
Valenzuela said he plans on returning back to Cal State Fullerton for his senior year during the offseason to get his master’s degree in communications.
But for now, the next step is more rehab and spending time at the training facilities in Mesa, Ariz. starting next week.
“I’m looking forward to getting healthy and being able to be back on the field and just start my professional career,” Valenzuela said.
Editor's Note: This article will be published in the June 7 edition of the Register-Pajaronian.