ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Former Albuquerque Isotopes standout infielder Pat Valaika has returned to the Duke City, wearing the uniform of the opponent. Valaika is in the dugout of the Tacoma Rainiers. “You know, parts of four seasons I played with a lot of really good guys, some good teams, had some good games here,” said Valaika. “You know, it’s a very offensive place, so it’s fun to come back and see the ball fly a little bit.”

Valaika was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 2013 and earned his first call-up to the big club in 2016. He split time between the Isotopes and Rockies for four seasons. While in Albuquerque, he even hit for the cycle twice. Valaika was released by the Rockies in 2019 and has seen a lot of different clubs since, moving from the Baltimore Orioles organization to the Atlanta Braves.

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In March of this year, Valaika signed a minor league deal with the Seattle Mariners. He understands that he is nearing the end of his career, but has found perspective and a new joy for playing the game. “You know I have grown up a little bit and try to enjoy the game a little more as I get older, just kind of approach each day like it could be my last because as you start to get older opportunities start to dry up a little bit,” said Valaika. “So, I am trying to do the best that I can for as long as I can, but I still think that I can bring stuff to the table and compete and that is why I am still here.”

Valaika comes from a baseball-playing family. He is one of four brothers to play professional baseball. His older brother Chris is currently a hitting coach for the Cleveland Guardians.

In other sports news, New Mexico’s Cassidy Cox added another team gold medal to her archery rewards chest last month while competing with Team USA at the World Cup in Turkey.

Lobo baseball will try to make the Mountain West Tournament as they play a three-game series at the home of the San Diego State Aztecs. The Lobos are in fifth place in the conference, just on the outside of a tournament berth. They can only get in with a sweep of the Aztecs. Game time Thursday night is 7 p.m.

New Mexico United moved up two spots in the USL Western Conference with a 3-1 win over Loudon United FC Wednesday night.