OUA trail blazer Valeriote begins play in Jays system | Canadian Baseball Network

This article was originally written for the Canadian Baseball Network.

by Tieja MacLaughlin

Shaun Valeriote would have never imagined it in his wildest dreams.

The Toronto Blue Jays – the apex of Canadian baseball pride.

The 22-year old waited patiently.

He and girlfriend Maegan listened via online as the names of baseball’s newest crop of young stars were selected in the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft.

By the 38th round, Valeriote had nearly lost hope.

“We started listening from the beginning of round 16 around noon,” he said. “By the start of the 39th round it was close to 5:30 p.m. and I had nearly shut it off.”

But the wait was well worth it. Valeriote was scooped up in the 39th round (1,195th overall) by the same team he grew up watching; the same team he knew and loved – the Blue Jays.

“I think about all of the games I went to growing up and all of the games I’ve watched on TV,” Valeriote said. “Just a couple of years ago it would have been hard to imagine my name being called by them in the draft.”

The 2010-11 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Most Valuable Hitter made history as the first ever OUA player selected in the MLB Draft, hailing from the Brock Badgers.

“I’m very proud to be Canadian,” Valeriote said. “Everyone seems to be buzzing about the Jays and how they are an up and coming team, so to be going through all of this when their popularity seems to be as high as it’s ever been, is pretty special.”

Valeriote’s journey has been a telltale story of hard work, patience and, of course a dash of luck. Like many others he began his career out of high school, headed for the perennial baseball nation with high hopes.

He made stops at the University of Miami Ohio and a junior college in Arizona, but being redshirted the majority of his time there, he felt he wasn’t given the opportunity he was looking for. Intrigued by Brock University’s sport management program and the success of their baseball squad, Valeriote opted to come home.

“Leaving the U.S was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” he said. “But playing south of the border isn’t for everyone.”

The Guelph, Ont. native was satisfied in pursuing academics and suiting up between the OUA in the fall and the Inter Country League (IBL) in the summers. Playing pro wasn’t something he anticipated happening though.

It was a Brock connection that got the ball rolling. Badgers alum Andrew Tinnish, then the director of scouting and now assistant general manager of the Blue Jays, took an interest in Valeriote.

“I’ve always looked up to Andrew in many ways that go beyond his success in baseball. When I first met him my hope was to pick his brain about his experiences,” said Valeriote, who was named the IBL rookie of the year in 2011. “I knew that I could learn a lot from him and hoped to apply it along with my degree to earn a job in the sports industry.”

Tinnish became a mentor of sorts for the young up-and-comer. This eventually led to Valeriote’s invitation to the Jays’ pre-draft workout at the Rogers Centre in May. His consistent performance and work ethic left an impression on the scouting staff.

Soon after the draft, Valeriote signed his first pro contract and has since joined the Jays Gulf Coast rookie-class team in Dunedin, Fla.

What’s been his most memorable moment?

“Tough to choose one.”

It must be, considering a significant number of the Jays major league roster is currently rehabbing at the same Dunedin complex, giving Valeriote full access to their wealth of baseball knowledge.

“Probably getting a hit and my first RBI off big league pitcher Peter Moylan.”

Something he would have never imagined. Despite the whirlwind past few weeks, Valeriote remains humble and has been taking it all in stride.

“I want to soak it all in,” he said. “I never pictured myself even having this opportunity, so everything from now on is icing on the cake.”

Tieja MacLaughlin