Christopher Peralta looks like a grizzled veteran.
Looks can be deceiving.
Peralta is the ace pitcher on the Northeast High School baseball team, and the 6-foot-4 hurler looks quite intimidating when standing on the mound. And judging by his success, it looks like he has plenty of experience mowing down Public League foes.
But this is his first year playing high school baseball.
“My first year I was ineligible to play,” Peralta said. “Then I was going to play my sophomore year, and COVID hit. Last year we were going to school, virtually, and I was in the Dominican Republic. So I would go to school during the day, then play baseball, but it wasn’t in Philly, it was in the Dominican Republic. This was the first year I could really play.”
He’s more than making up for lost time.
Peralta is 3-0 for the Vikings, who are 4-0 on the young season. The North Philadelphia resident has a 3.50 earned run average and hitters are batting just over .200 against him.
His hurling is a huge reason for Northeast’s fast start under first-year coach Sean Diviny, who took over for coach Tom Juhas who stepped down after last year.
Peralta, who plays in the outfield when he’s not on the mound, is happy to take over as the ace and leader of the team. It’s come naturally for the first-year player.
“It didn’t take me long to get to know everyone because I knew most of the guys from school,” Peralta said. “I became friends with them very quickly. It’s a really good team. I’m just trying to help.
“We have a good team. I like pitching, so when I start or if they need me to come in, I’m happy doing that. I like playing (outfield), too. We have guys who can do both, so whatever I can do, I’m ready to do. I just want to win.”
The Vikings haven’t played a ton of baseball early, but after a tough preseason, they’ve come out of the gates flying in the Public League. They’ve already knocked off rivals like Frankford, George Washington and Franklin Towne Charter, proving that the Vikings should be once again among the powerhouses in the Public League. Last year they advanced to the semifinals of the Public League playoffs, and the hope is to make it that far and potentially further.
No matter how far they go, Peralta is ready to lead the way.
“I’m kind of quiet, but not too quiet,” said Peralta, who is hitting .500 at the plate and is excelling in school after struggling three years ago. “I’m becoming a leader of this team. We have good leaders, but I’m here to help. I’ll do whatever it takes. I just like playing.”
Peralta has been playing baseball his whole life, and he’s been pretty good. But he does believe he got better last year when he was playing in the Dominican Republic.
“Baseball is big there, so I played a lot when I had time,” Peralta said. “It was good because I would go to school and as soon as it was over, I would just play. We played a lot. I got better because I was playing every day. I think I grew as a player by playing with them.”
Whatever he’s doing, it’s working.
His rookie coach is happy to see the growth of his ace.
“You see him out there, he’s big so he’s intimidating like Randy Johnson,” Diviny said. “He doesn’t know Randy Johnson, so let’s say a guy like Jacob deGrom. He’s big and intimidating, and he throws hard and is throwing harder every game. We’ll see what happens when it starts to warm up.
“He’s really played well for us, early on. He’s been a good leader, more so by example, but he’s getting better in all aspects of the leadership role.”
Peralta is hoping to play well for the rest of the year because it will most likely be the end of his baseball career, at least in terms of playing for a school. His late start wasn’t ideal for getting a scholarship, but his good season could draw some attention.
If he earns a scholarship, he would consider playing at the next level, but if he doesn’t, he’ll likely take over his family store, L&R Grocery & Deli at 554 N. 63rd St.
He spends his free time working there now, and is ready to take over the job of running it for his father.
“It’s a bodega, a great store that has everything,” Peralta said. “It’s in the neighborhood, everyone goes there. We sell everything. I love working there. I would love to play college baseball, but I’ve always known that some day I was going to take over the family business. That’s what I want to do.
“My dad has worked hard his whole life. He’s a great worker and he works really hard. I’m going to do the same. I want to work in that store. I have worked there, but I’m going to take it over and do what my dad did.”
It would be nice if he becomes the manager after winning a Public League championship.
“We’re a good team and we’re getting better,” Peralta said. “I’m really excited about this year. We’ve played well, but we can play better. I know we can have a great year.”