RedHawks catcher Valerio hits dramatic home run to spark ninth-inning comeback
FARGO—The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks posted a popular image on multiple social media accounts earlier this spring. Charlie Valerio, the team's veteran catcher, was bicycling with former Major League slugger Manny Ramirez in Japan.
In the video screenshot, Valerio was in the foreground with Ramirez and Valerio's wife, Rena, on bikes trailing him. Ramirez was wearing Valerio's "RedHawks" jacket.
"I just decided to record, and you know, that was awesome," Valerio said.
Valerio belted a two-run home run in the ninth inning to spark a game-winning rally. Keury De La Cruz later added a two-out, walk-off grand slam to give the RedHawks an 8-4 victory against the Sioux Falls Canaries on Wednesday in American Association baseball before 2,502 fans at Newman Outdoor Field.
The RedHawks (7-5) scored six runs in the ninth inning. Valerio went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored against the Canaries.
Valerio took the video with Ramirez more than a year ago and then posted it as a throwback video on his Instagram account this spring. Ramirez was playing for the Kochi Fighting Dogs at the time.
"He took me to Japan with him, just like a little vacation," said Valerio, who was in Japan with Ramirez for about a month.
Valerio and Ramirez have become friends ever since Ramirez practiced with Valerio's team in the Dominican Republic a couple years ago. Valerio talked to Ramirez on on the phone Wednesday so he could wish the 46-year-old Ramirez a happy birthday.
"I started joking with him," Valerio said with a smile. "They asked me if you want to come (to Fargo) and play with us."
Valerio is his fourth season with the RedHawks has become one of the team's leaders with his ability to handle the pitching staff. The switch hitter was also batting .278 with three home runs and eight RBIs through the first 10 games.
"The backbone of the team is the catcher," RedHawks manager Michael Schlact said. "Charlie is a real smart, cerebral guy. He has a good understanding and awareness of the game. ... He's a guy that's well respected, but also he's not going to let anyone run over his guys."
Schlact said Valerio brings a laid-back and easy-going presence to the clubhouse, but is a fierce competitor between the lines.
"I'm a happy guy," Valerio said. "I don't like to be mad. I don't like to waste my time being mad and angry. I like to enjoy every moment on the field."
Valerio said he was around 4 or 5 years old when he started playing baseball in the Dominican Republic. He remembers going to watch his father, Charlie, play softball at that young age. Valerio still feels like a kid when he takes the field.
"Every time I go out to the field, my life changes," Valerio said. "You are a like a little boy. You give me a candy or a new toy, I'm happy. I love it. I love baseball."