By Linda Hutchison
What young baseball star doesn’t dream of moving up and shining brightly in the major leagues? For Pat Christensen of La Jolla, his dream and hard work have paid off. He was recently selected by the Houston Astros in the 27th round of the 2013 Major League Baseball draft.
Christensen is a 2009 graduate of La Jolla High, where he excelled as a right- handed pitcher for the school’s baseball team. While pitching for the Vikings, he set records — 23 varsity career wins and a .742 winning percentage, the second highest in the team’s 90-year history.
He didn’t start out as a shining star in baseball, however. He also played soccer and didn’t think he was a strong baseball hitter. But his parents, Patrick and Mary Beth Christenson of La Jolla, encouraged him to try pitching a for a year.
“I tried that out and it worked pretty well,” the 22-year-old Christensen said. “With pitching, you have a lot of control over things, so that’s why I liked it. It came more natural to me than anything else.”
After high school, Christensen decided to attend La Salle University in Philadelphia. There, for the next four years, he relied on his two-seam fastball, love of baseball and drive to deliver stellar performances for the Explorers.
By the time he graduated earlier this year, he had set more records — fifth of all time in NCAA Division I history in saves with 44, as well as the lowest ERA (2.73) in La Salle history. He was named the Big 5 Pitcher of the Year as a senior.
Christensen did not neglect his academic career either while at La Salle. He was twice named Big 5 scholar athlete of the year, earning Academic All-American status. He earned a bachelor’s degree with a double major in accounting and finance.
Christensen is the first player drafted from La Salle since the Seattle Mariners selected pitcher Cody Weiss in 2011. At 6’ 3”, Christensen was one of 40 players drafted this spring by the Astros, which included 31 college players, 16 right-handed pitchers like Christensen and eight left-handed pitchers.
He said it hasn’t completely sunk in that he’s a professional baseball player, despite much support from family and friends.
“I think by the time I actually go to where I’m supposed to go to start playing baseball, that’s when it will feel real to me,” he said shortly after his draft announcement in June.
So where is Christensen playing? Currently, as part of the farm team system, for the Tri-City ValleyCats, based in Troy, New York. The Astros-affiliated team is doing well, currently ranking first in its New York-Penn League.
The Astros unfortunately are not doing as well, but are working hard with a new owner and general manager — and minor league players like Christensen with big dreams and a mean fastball — to turn things around.
Despite missing La Jolla’s beaches and weather, Christensen says he’s enjoying his new path. “It’s a great experience meeting people and traveling and playing baseball.”