Voila! Veteran Valerio signs to be Canaries' catcher
New Canaries catcher Charlie Valerio. Photo courtesy of the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks.
The Sioux Falls Canaries added a "huge piece of the puzzle" to their 2021 roster on Thursday, signing 11-year minor league veteran catcher Charlie Valerio.
Most baseball teams desire exactly what the 30-year-old former Dominican Republic national team member brings to the spot behind the plate -- a cool and calm demeanor with plenty of experience in working pitchers through all kinds of jams, but with plenty of prime years in front of him.
Roy Morales brought that to Sioux Falls last season, but was on a one-year loan from the American Association's Kansas City Monarchs, who didn't play in 2020 and have taken him back in 2021.
So, Birds manager Mike Meyer sought the same traits and found them in Valerio, who Meyer observed when Valerio was the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks' catcher opposite Meyer's American Association teams from 2015-18.
"Charlie takes pride in handling the pitching staff and does a great job of calling pitches," Meyer said. "I know our staff will be in good hands with Charlie behind the plate.
"He will also play a major role in the middle of our lineup. He's a switch hitter who will provide juice on both sides of the plate."
In five seasons of independent ball, Valerio has been a model of consistency, batting .273 with 46 home runs and 212 RBI in 433 games. He has hit 11 or 12 dingers in each of his last three seasons, and has spent the last seven winters in his home country playing in the Dominican Winter League.
Valerio, who grew up playing in the streets of Santiago, signed a contract with the Cleveland Indians at age 19 and spent five seasons with the club, ascending as high as Double-A with the Akron RubberDucks in 2014.
The Redhawks picked him up in 2015 and kept him for four seasons, save for a 2016 stint in Joplin (MO), another AAPB team at the time. Last year, Valerio played for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the independent Atlantic League, where he hit .262 with 11 homers and 46 RBI in 109 games. The San Diego Padres signed him in November 2019 after he caught fire as a slugger for the Dominican National Team during an Olympic qualifying event.
Of course, the 2020 season never materialized for the Padres and the rest of Major League Baseball and its minor league affiliates, so Valerio did not play American pro ball last season, when the Canaries reached the American Association Finals for the first time in a decade.
He'll join a 2021 lineup that includes 2020 stars like outfielder Logan Landon, designated hitter Jabari Henry, and utility player Mike Hart, and adds former St. Paul Saints slugger Troy Alexander, 6'5 masher Nate Etheridge and former Double-A infiedler Zane Gurwitz.
But the most important will be how Valerio works with the pitching staff, which brings back crafty Birds veterans Grady Wood and Kevin Folman and adds flame-throwing youngsters like Robbie Gordon, Kolton Ingram and Jackson Maynard.
"He knows how to read a hitter," Redhawks pitching coach Michael Schlact said of Valerio in a 2017 Fargo Forum feature. "He remembers what hitters have done in previous at-bats and games. He's very personable. He gets along with everyone really well."
Said Valerio in that same piece:
"I want to do something positive for me and my career and my life. 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."
Valerio has a chance to be a part of back-to-back playoff runs. So do you. Call the Canaries box office at 605-336-6060 to get your season tickets and learn about all levels of group packages.
The season starts with a nine-game homestand on May 18. Here is the Canaries' 100-game schedule for 2021, which includes 56 games in The Birdcage!