RedHawks catcher Valerio has delivered on his promise to Simunic
FARGO—Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks catcher Charlie Valerio remembers playing baseball in the streets during his childhood in the Dominican Republic.
His parents didn't approve for safety reasons.
"I play a lot in the streets and my mom and my dad tell me 'Hey, don't play in the streets,' " Valerio said with a smile. "Every time my mom and dad see me play in the street, they put me on time out."
Valerio is playing in safer conditions these days, and having a strong season for the RedHawks.
"He said to me at the beginning of the year 'I'm going to have a good year for you,' and he's backed it up," RedHawks manager Doug Simunic said.
The Gary SouthShore RailCats scored three unearned runs in the fourth inning Friday night at Newman Outdoor Field. Those runs helped lift the RailCats to a 4-2 victory against the RedHawks in American Association baseball before 4,507 fans.
"We've got to really dig down deep now and score some runs," Simunic said of his offense which finished with seven hits against four Gary pitchers.
The RedHawks (41-34) remained three games behind the Winnipeg Goldeyes for first place in the North Division. F-M has 25 games remaining in the regular season.
"We've got to come back (Saturday) and forget about this," Simunic added.
The 26-year-old Valerio was batting .254 with 15 doubles, eight home runs and 36 RBIs entering Friday's game against the RailCats. He's also handled a pitching staff that ranked fourth in the league with a 3.97 team ERA through 74 games.
"He's been a key element to what we've done up to this point," Simunic said. "He's blocked the ball extremely well. Passed balls have been limited. He's been a good two-way player."
Valerio said he was 4 or 5 years old when he started to tag along and watch his dad, Charlie, play softball. For as long as he can remember, Valerio said he wanted to be a baseball player.
"In the Dominican Republic, the first thing we do is play baseball," Valerio said. "It was our passion. We just enjoyed the game. It doesn't matter if it's raining, we still play."
Valerio grew up idolizing former Major League Baseball stars like sluggers Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa and pitching ace Pedro Martinez.
Valerio was 19 years old when he signed with the Cleveland Indians organization, where he spent five seasons, advancing as high as Class Double-A. Valerio said it was a very emotional moment when he went home to tell his family he had signed his first pro contract.
"My mom (Isabel) started to cry," Valerio said. "I cried."
RedHawks pitching coach Michael Schlact said Valerio has a done a good job working with pitching staff and staying engaged throughout the season.
"He knows how to read a hitter. He remembers what hitters have done in previous at-bats and games," Schlact said. "He's very personable. He gets along with everyone really well."
Valerio said he's been more focused this season. This is the third season he's played with the RedHawks.
"I want to do something positive for me and my career and my life," Valerio said. "That's my goal, to try to be a better person. ... When they give me the opportunity, I try to enjoy it as much as a I can."