The 2006 high school baseball season was about to begin and Damien Seguen’s career was already hanging in the balance. Seguen had spent more than two years at Hudson Catholic High School in Jersey City and was expected to be the ace of the Hawks’ pitching staff, when he was asked to leave the school due to disciplinary reasons right before Opening Day.
“It was tough for me to find a new school,” Seguen said. “I really didn’t find a place that would really accept me.”
Seguen also had a lot of baggage that accompanied him. There was talk that he was unmanageable. He was branded as a top talent who was throwing it all away with a bad attitude and bad approach.
But Seguen (last name pronounced SAY-GEEN) had to leave Hudson Catholic and badly needed a change of address. So he decided to go home to North Bergen and North Bergen High School.
“I finally found my home, and it was in my hometown of North Bergen,” Seguen said.
North Bergen head baseball coach Pat Brady heard the stories of Seguen’s troubled past.
“He was from North Bergen, so I already knew of him,” Brady said. “He once threw a dominating performance against us when he was at Hudson Catholic. But when he came here to North Bergen, we welcomed him with open arms. He might have made some mistakes at Hudson Catholic, but coming here was like a new lease on life. We were willing to give him a second chance, and that’s what North Bergen represented for Damien, a second chance.”
Seguen got a chance to pitch a handful of games for the Bruins at the end of last season, but it wasn’t enough for him to make an impact.
In the meantime, something clicked inside of Seguen. As a senior, he realized that he had run out of second chances. He couldn’t afford to throw away another season simply because of his internal strife.
“I believe that everything happens for a reason,” Seguen said. “I had come home to play for my hometown high school. I knew that I didn’t have too many people behind me and everyone was against me. But the coaches in North Bergen believed in me. I knew that I had to make the most of this year, go out with a bang. My number one goal was prove to people that I was a good baseball player, to either get a scholarship or get drafted.”
Last summer, Seguen traveled the country attending talent showcases, trying to get spotted by the college recruiters and pro scouts. He also realized that he had to prove himself during his final season in high school. There were no more tomorrows, no more schools to head to as safe havens. This was it. He was headed into his senior year at North Bergen and had to make the most of it.
“I had a dream to make it in baseball and I had to go for it,” Seguen said. “People told me that it all came down to this year. Coach Brady was a big part of it. He woke me up. He told me to stop worrying about individual things, like statistics. He told me to worry more about the team.”
However, Seguen had to worry about something much more important – himself. He had to tackle his image, his reputation, his propensity for finding trouble on and off the field. Damien Seguen was definitely at the crossroads. If he made one more mistake, chances are that he would have been a forgotten soul and that dream of becoming a big-time baseball player would have gone right down the toilet.
Seguen’s first start this season for the Bruins wasn’t exactly one for the memory bank. He struggled mightily against Bayonne, walking a total of eight batters.
“I think it was more like 10 walks,” Seguen said. “That wasn’t like me. I didn’t know what was wrong. I was just uncomfortable and it showed with all those walks. But the coaching staff and Coach Brady were still behind me and told me that I was the ace of the pitching staff.”
“I knew that he was much more mature than what he used to be,” Brady said. “I knew he had grown up a little. I knew that he could throw one pitch for strikes, but he had to work on his other pitches. I told him that he couldn’t just be a thrower anymore, that he had to become a pitcher and mix in his other pitches, like his curve and off-speed stuff. He came in as a thrower. He had to become more of a pitcher and we stressed that over and over.”
Added Brady, “We told him that he didn’t have to go out there and try to strike out everyone, that he could trust the guys behind him. I think after that [Bayonne] game, he was ready to trust his stuff and trust his teammates.”
Seguen’s next two starts have been nothing short of brilliant. He first fired a two-hitter against Memorial, striking out 16 in handing the Tigers their first loss of the season, earning a 2-1 victory.
In his next start against St. Peter’s Prep, another perennial Hudson County power, Seguen was even one step better – pitching a one-hitter, striking out 18 in leading the Bruins to a 4-0 victory. In those two wins, Seguen walked a total of one batter while fanning 34. His fastball has been clocked at 91 miles per hour, adding a brilliant curve and change now to the mix.
Seguen has also been dominant at the plate as well – something that he never showed before this year at all. In fact, when he last played varsity baseball on a regular basis at Hudson Catholic, Seguen was regularly batted for.
But right now, Seguen has hit six homers this season – including two in a win against Emerson last Friday and one in the big win he pitched against Prep on Monday. The six homers represent the highest total for any batter in northern New Jersey this season.
For his efforts, Seguen has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Needless to say, Seguen’s performance ranks as one of the biggest turnarounds in recent memory. This isn’t a young man who has just altered his playing performance. He’s totally changed his life.
“We always knew that the potential was there,” Brady said. “He’s just locked in right now, both on the mound and at the plate. If he can continue this, he will have solidified his place in North Bergen baseball history. Considering the magnitude of the wins as well. We were 2-5 before we played Memorial and they were undefeated. We needed a jump start and that’s what Damien provided us.”
The Bruins have won four of five to even their record at 6-6. The ace pitcher totally dominated the two premier programs in Hudson County in successive starts. It’s safe to say Damien Seguen is for real.
“He’s given us everything we could ask for and more,” Brady said.
Even Seguen is a little surprised with the way he’s simply taken over Hudson County baseball in the past two weeks.
“I just don’t want to wake up from this dream,” said Seguen, who even sounds like a totally changed young man. “It’s going to be hard to keep all of this going. It really has me amazed. I mean, those two teams are powerhouses. I know all the players and know what they’re capable of. It’s really unbelievable.”
But Seguen doesn’t think his performances matter much right now. Remarkably, the jury is still out.
“Honestly, I don’t feel like I’ve proven anything yet and won’t until we either win the county or the state (NJSIAA Group IV) state championship,” Seguen said. “Until then, I haven’t done anything.”
Try selling that to Memorial and St. Peter’s Prep. They witnessed greatness last week.