The name of the school is Girard Academic

Music

Program, but for Eric Funaro that third word is quite the ungraspable concept.

He plays no instruments. And to say, as required of all students, he "participates" in the choir, a loose definition must be used.

"I can't sing at all," he said. "I'm so bad, my music teacher tells me to hum."

A search for other talents does not take long. Funaro maintains a 3.2 grade-point average and has been accepted into a 6-year program at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia that will yield a doctorate in physical therapy. He's also a baseball leader.

Yesterday, the 6-foot, 165-pound Funaro, splitting his time between catcher (five innings) and shortstop, went 3-for-5 with a double, two RBI and two runs scored out of the leadoff slot as visiting GAMP outlasted Northeast, 10-7, in a Public League Division A game.

Right behind him, junior rightfielder Jon Sheridan turned three singles into four RBI.

"You should really be talking to Jon," Funaro said. "He was our best hitter today."

Productive and magnanimous. Nice combination.

Until recently, Funaro never would have pictured enjoying the top spot in the lineup. But by now, he has learned to roll with the suggestions made by coach Art Kratchman.

Funaro was exclusively an infielder as a youth player and scratched his head, at a minimum, when Kratchman coverted him into a catcher as a freshman.

"That position was open, so he put me there," Funaro said. "At first, I hated it. I always wanted to switch back. By 10th grade I loved it and didn't want to move.

"I like that you're in every play. As time went on, I liked learning how to block pitches and I worked at building up my arm strength. I've noticed year by year that runners try to steal on me less and less. This year, they're even going less and less."

It's called respect.

"I guess you could say that," he said, smiling.

This was Funaro's third game as the leadoff batter.

" 'Kratch' didn't even give me a reason why," he said. "I guess he figured he'd put me there because I have a good on-base percentage.

"My thing is to be real aggressive. I had to slow things down. Work some deep counts. I like to swing first-pitch fastball a lot. They come down the middle, usually. Can't always do that now."

Funaro's first at-bat against sophomore lefthander Brian Susten resulted in a strike three called. Ouch. Is that any way to start the game? Turns out, it wasn't a bad idea.

"In all three games, I've started off with strikeouts," he said. "Really! I'm not even joking! But I've followed with a hit in all three and I'm, let's see, 6-for-14 now as the leadoff man. I was in a slump before this.

"I get upset when I mess up early, but I have to stay in there mentally because I'm going right back into the field and catcher's an important position. I had good at-bats later."

After A.J. Logan's RBI single gave Northeast a 6-5 lead in the fifth, the Pioneers chased Susten with an immediate four-spot. Sheridan delivered a two-run single while Chris Matticks and winning pitcher Andrew Caines, a senior lefty, rapped hits for one run apiece.

Anthony Venafro, the shortstop, pitched the last two innings while Funaro, whose father, Ron, was the starting shortstop and No. 3 hitter for Southern's 1968 Pub champs, went to dad's position and Eugene Aversa, the designated hitter, moved behind the plate.

John Katein, the No. 9 hitter, paced Northeast in hits with three, including a double, and one RBI. His two-out double kept alive the game and an infield error eventually brought the tying run to the plate. Tim Freiling smoked a liner to right to end it. The Vikings' early highlight was Joe Breitweiser's two-run, crush-job homer to left-center.

Funaro has long been interested in becoming a physical therapist.

"I want a job around sports," he said. "Plus, the money's good."

In baseball, so's Eric Funaro. Feel free to hum his praises. *