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Toronto Blue Jays make Shaun Valeriote first MLB draft choice from Ontario University Athletics

Brock Badgers' Shaun Valeriote was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday (Brock University photo)Apparently the award for breaking a school batting record that was held by Toronto Blue Jays director of scouting Andrew Tinnish is, wait for it, getting drafted by the Blue Jays.

Yes, there is collegiate baseball in Canada and as of Wednesday afternoon, it can now say it has produced a honest-to-goodness Major League Baseball draft choice. Shaun Valeriote, a first baseman for both the Brock Badgers and the Guelph Royals of the amateur Inter-County League, became Ontario University Athletics' first MLB draft pick when the Jays selected him in the 39th round, 1,195th overall. So it was pretty big day for Brock University all-around between having a student-athlete drafted by the Jays, Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes showing up to convocation and, of course, their football team being undefeated since 1964.

This does not appear to be one of those late-round courtesy choices MLB teams are known to make as the draft drags along. Valeriote told his hometown Guelph Mercury that the plan is for him to sign with the Jays and start out in organized baseball with their single-A farm team in Dunedin, Fla.

The Brock connection speaks for itself. Last fall, Valeriote won the OUA triple crown with a .460 batting average, five home runs and 20 RBI in just 63 at-bats for the St. Catharines, Ont., school. (Yes, the OUA ball season is short and the competition might be a little uneven.) In 2010, he lit up OUA hurlers for a .519 average, which broke a 12-year-old school hard mark held by (drumroll) Andrew Tinnish.

It's a feel-good story since, well, it's never happened before. Only one OUA baseball grad has ever gone on to play in the minors; pitcher Jamaal Joseph was signed by the then-Florida Marlins in the mid-aughties. Valeriote also thought he had missed his window to break into professional baseball after failing to get a foothold at two U.S. schools.

From Tony Saxon:

Valeriote has had a bumpy baseball road.

Out of high school he earned a scholarship to Miami of Ohio University, but after being redshirted for his first year he left there to attend a junior college in Arizona.

He left there after just one semester and returned to Canada and Brock University to concentrate on his academics.

"Getting drafted definitely wasn't in my thought process at all when I went to Brock." (Guelph Mercury)

The Badgers' baseball program, as Callum Hughson of Mop-Up Duty wrote early in 2011, has become a diamond refuge for Canadians who have found "the grass isn't always greener on the U.S./NCAA side." It won't be confused for college baseball south of the border any time soon. Our climate only permits a two-month-long 'fallball' season. Most programs run at a club level instead of being a full-fledged varsity team, meaning the players pay the freight for a lot of the costs of the running the program instead of the university doing so.

But the sweat equity the coaches and players have put into it since university baseball teams began sprouting up in the 1990s, often playing doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday while many other students are partying away the first few weeks of the fall semester, has driven up the calibre of play. Now it's produced a major-league pick. Credit Shaun Valeriote for not giving up and credit Andrew Tinnish for being true to his school.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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