String Theory pitcher growing by leaps and bounds

Photo/Mark Zimmaro
Photo/Mark Zimmaro

Christopher Valerio outgrew his position behind the plate. Literally.

The Girard Estates resident and senior on the Philadelphia Performing Arts: String Theory Charter School baseball team hit a couple of major growth spurts over the last few years that caused some knee pain as his body made significant changes. 

His days of being a catcher were done, so he traveled about 60 feet and learned how to pitch. 

“I was a catcher until a year and a half ago,” Valerio said. “Everything I have learned has been from watching YouTube videos and figuring out things and teaching myself. It’s been a really good experience learning all the different techniques and using the force from the ground and my hips to throw harder. Watching my growth has been amazing.”

Now 6 feet 5, the catcher’s equipment probably wasn’t going to fit him anyway. But Valerio has made a smooth transition to pitching and has become one of the better hurlers in the Public League. And he’s just getting started on his path.

“It was weird getting used to my body again,” Valerio said after growing five inches over one summer. “I never understood the whole aura of using the ground and using your hips in the game of baseball and once I started to figure that out, I’ve been throwing the ball faster and hitting the ball harder. It’s a great feeling.”

Valerio has only started to unlock his potential, recently hitting the mid-80s with his fastball and becoming the Knights’ ace on the hill. But he figures, once he adds some weight to his frame (he’s 200 pounds), there will be more levels to reach. Albright College loves the upside and Valerio committed to play baseball for the Lions next year. He will study education.

“I enjoyed the fact that it felt like home,” Valerio said of his visit to Reading. “I went to multiple different schools and at Albright, I felt like I was in the city. There was so much action going on and so many people. As soon as I stepped on campus, I knew it was a place I could call home for the next four years.”

Photo/Mark Zimmaro

Valerio’s choice to study education stems from his interaction with former head coach Eric Funaro, who is the school’s athletic director and boys basketball coach, and still serves as an assistant baseball coach. He said he hopes to give the same guidance Funaro gave him.

“I want to inspire the youth and do what coach Eric did for me,” Valerio said. “He was my teacher in fifth grade and now he’s my basketball and baseball coach. Having him in my life really helped me. He always believed in me, no matter what. He begged me to stay at String Theory to play some baseball and I’m glad he did. He was always there if I needed somebody. I could always give him a call and he’d be there.”

The Knights’ new baseball coach, Sean Jones, thinks pretty highly of Valerio, too, as they head into the busy part of their first season together.

Photo/Mark Zimmaro

“He’s got a bright future as a pitcher,” Jones said. “He still needs to work on some regular stuff that any pitcher does. But once he gets a good secondary pitch and puts on some weight, he’s going to be a menace. It’ll be interesting to see what he’s like in about two years.”

Or maybe even by the end of the spring. Valerio is a quick learner with a desire to attain knowledge. He’s hoping it all comes together and the Knights go on a run. They had their four-game winning streak interrupted on April 10 in a loss to Northeast High School and sat at 4-4, but the Knights are hoping to kick it into another gear.

“We’re going to be in the playoffs no matter what,” Valerio said. “I just want to see us progress everyday and hopefully continue to get better and continue to grow. But I have full faith in everybody on our team that we can go out and produce at a high level. I think this year in the Public League is anybody’s year.”