“I didn’t know I was pitching a perfect game until the sixth inning,” said Sean Jun, 12, a member of a Cal Ripken League team sponsored by Pizza Masters.
At that age, teams play only six-inning games. So this was near the end of the game, and much of the tension usually surrounding a perfect game was concentrated into that last inning.
A perfect game is rare on any level of baseball. It means that the pitcher has given up no hits and no walks.
“This was the one day his parents weren’t in the stands cheering Sean on,” said Mike Miselis, co-founder of the Bayonne Cal Ripken Baseball League.
At nearly every other game, Sean’s parents—a personal cheering section—are in the stands with scorecards. But this game was on Sunday, and they were in church.
“I think that may have helped,” Sean said with a laugh and a smile made famous by Harry Potter. “They told me they were praying for me.”
It must have worked, much to the frustration of the other team. Sean, however, said there were two close plays, and unlike other games that were dominated by strikeouts, he had to rely on his teammates to help save his perfect game.
Matty Page, second baseman, made a great play to stop a ball from sneaking through to become a hit in one play. Zachary Rada made a great catch.
A seventh grader at Bailey School, Sean hopes to continue his career in baseball when he gets to high school and perhaps beyond.
“I think I can keep on playing baseball when I get to high school as long as I keep my grades up,” he said. “I’m doing well. But I can always do better.”
He has been playing in the Cal Ripken League since he was six years old, starting in the instructional league, and has learned each year.
Pitching isn’t all he does. He also plays shortstop and is a terror with the bat. His .452 batting average kept him in the running for battling title for most of the season. As a hitter, he led in on-base percentage and walks.
His dominance as a pitcher, however, even makes Miselis cringe, since the team Miselis coaches will have to face Sean in an upcoming playoff game.
Sean said he’s come close to perfect games twice before, in one case walking someone in the last inning, and in the other giving up a hit.
While he dabbles in other sports like basketball and soccer, he wants to pursue baseball. His favorite team, naturally, is the New York Yankees, but his favorite player is Mike Trout, who plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I like the mental part of the game,” Sean said.
But he doesn’t let his success go to his head.
“I just go out and do what I have to do,” he said. “My parents push me to the limit. I remember when I was younger, and my father was doing soft tosses with me, and I wanted to stop. He told me, ‘we have to do three more buckets of balls.’”
So how does he top pitching a perfect game?
“I can’t,” he said with a laugh, “not unless I hit four home runs in a game.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.