Pitching for his life: Brighton senior pitcher, DeLouchrey, uses baseball to overcome personal setbacks
Billy Owens / For the Boston Globe
After giving up 11 hits in a 12-8 season-opening loss to West Roxbury, Brighton senior pitcher Christopher DeLouchrey responded by striking out 18 batters in his next outing against Boston English and 15 in the outing after that against the defending city champs, Madison Park.
“He only stuck out 10 today; poor, poor performance,” Brighton High coach Bill Mahoney chided his ace after an 11-0, 5-inning mercy against West Roxbury May 3 at Rogers Park.
Brighton's coach for the last 12 years went on to say that the senior is probably the best pitcher the Bengals have ever had.
“[His stats] are wild, off the charts," Mahoney said as DeLouchrey blanched beside his coach. "He throws strikes, he’s got movement; if you got movement and you throw strikes and you got location you are probably going to win two out of three games.
“The problem is he puts our outfielders and infielders to sleep. Who wants to play with him when he’s striking everybody out? They’ve got gloves on their hands; they want the ball hit to them."
The 17-year-old West Roxbury native, who pitched the last three seasons for Dedham High before moving back to the city, has had a wild start to his first season with Brighton, in which he’s struck out 75 batters in 38 innings.
“It’s been crazy, I didn’t expect my second game to be 18 Ks, it just happened like that. I didn’t think I was going to get that big in that short of a time," said DeLouchrey (3-3, 1.51 ERA). "It feels good, it feels good to be noticed.”
Brighton (7-7 overall, 3-4 Boston City League North) will put DeLouchrey on the mound on Wednesday against Latin Academy with a spot in the City Championships on the line.
Brighton lost to the Dragons, 3-2, this past Thursday but a victory on Wednesday would force a tiebreak. The Bengals also need to win two of their last four games to qualify for the state tournament for the 13th consecutive year.
“I deal good with pressure,” said DeLouchrey, who also has 14 hits and 11 RBIs in 35 at bats this season. “I think that’s why I’m good at pitching. I don’t really let stuff get to me. When I’m on the mound it’s nothing. It’s me and the catcher.”
In fact, DeLouchrey has dealt with far more adversity off the mound than what he will ever have to deal with on the field. The last decade has been tumultuous for his family, filled with more tragedy than most teenagers could bear.
When he was 7-years-old, DeLouchrey’s estranged father died of a drug overdose. After the third grade, the Parkway Little League star moved to Dedham with his mother, her new husband and his half-brother.
DeLouchrey continued to thrive in Parkway Little League but he struggled to fit in, all the way through his junior year in high school. Last year, DeLouchrey’s mother was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor and also got divorced. The family lost their home in Dedham and moved back to West Roxbury.
And if that wasn’t enough for one teen-ager to handle, DeLouchrey’s 21-year-old cousin,
Stephanie Harrington of Braintree, was hit by two cars in Weymouth and died just days before Thanksgiving last year.
“He was going to take her to the prom, just because they are good friends,” DeLouchrey’s mother, Diane DeLouchrey, said. “I know that put a damper on him. … It’s been a tough year for all of us. I give him a lot of credit for standing so strong as he has.”
DeLouchrey’s mother put him in Little League when he was 5-years-old and has supported him ever since. She threw batting practice to him until he could hit the ball so hard that it “whizzed” by her face and she bought him a backyard pitching machine and batting cage.
She said her son didn’t get much playing time when he started playing Little League until a coach named Jim Galvin recognized his abilities.
“Then he started,” she said. “You should see all the trophies he got; golden gloves for how insane he pitched.”
As an 11-year-old he played on a team that battled the Walpole Little League squad that went to the Little League World Series in 2007. DeLouchrey has also played a game in Yankee Stadium and traveled to Japan for a tournament.
“He really is something else, he’s a great kid and I’m not just saying that because I’m his mother,” Diane DeLouchrey said. “He’s got enormous heart.”
For his own part, DeLouchrey said he doesn’t know what his life would be like if it wasn't for baseball.
“Usually kids that go through all this end up doing drugs and all this other stuff," he said. "Baseball, I knew if I wanted to play I had to stay away from drugs and I had to stay focused. Baseball is my main focus point. Without it I don’t know where I’d be right now.”
Baseball has certainly helped him assimilate at Brighton High. DeLouchrey said he initially thought going to school there would be “terrible.” But now he flashes a smile when talking about how his classmates ask him in the hallways how many strikeouts he had the previous day.
It also helped that a few of his teammates from his club team, the Boston Astros, attend Brighton High. They introduced him to the other baseball players in the school, including senior catcher Jonathan Morrero.
“Our chemistry hit right when I met him, our chemistry was there,” Morrero said. “We just spent a lot of time together, whether off the field or on the field, we spent a lot of time together learning his pitches, learning where he throws, where his sweat spots are, knowing where he wants it.”
For the last few months DeLouchrey has been living with his aunt, Barbara Nahim, while his mother recovers. Nahim said it’s been amazing to see how this season has transformed her nephew’s demeanor and has picked up the entire family’s spirits.
“It’s incredible because my boys, as well as his brother, he’s their idol and they want to follow in his footsteps,” she said. “They want to play Parkway baseball as well. They just want to be just like him. He’s just an incredible kid. He’s an incredible baseball pitcher and an incredible player all around.”
Nahim and her husband are helping DeLouchrey navigate the application process for schools next year. She said she thinks he would benefit from an extra year of high school at a prep school. Vermont Academy has accepted DeLouchrey but isn’t offering financial aid, Nahim said. She said they are waiting to hear back from Bridgton Academy in Maine.
Fitchburg State, MassBay Community College and UMass-Boston have also expressed interest in DeLouchrey.
Mahoney, the former Boston University coach, said DeLouchrey could eventually play Division 1 baseball.
“Right now he can play Division 2 or 3 and I’d say after one year he could probably be pitching for a Division 1 team,” Mahoney said. “He’s still raw. He’s a thrower not quite a pitcher yet. We talk a lot about preparation, mechanics, and sequence of pitches. We’re trying to get him acclimated to be a pitcher. He’s getting there.”
For DeLouchrey, getting to college is not just an opportunity to extend his baseball career, but it is a bridge over troubled waters.
“Baseball, when I play it, it takes my mind off everything,” he said. “It’s just me and my team. I just forget about everything that happened outside [of baseball]. I just focus on what’s going on right now. It’s what I like to do and I don’t want anything to get in the way or stop me from playing.
“With what went on in my life,” he continued, “doing this is a chance to get away from all that and make everything better if I could go college and come up from all these tough times … and do something better with my life.”
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