Perfect Game Witnessed
To some, T.J. Bennet’s long fly ball to center field to lead off the top of the ninth inning was just a hard hit fast ball. But, to the true baseball fans in Consol Energy park this last Sunday, it was a heart-stopping near-disaster narrowly averted by the skilled leaping catch of center fielder Andrew Heck.
Then, two short pitches later, it was the same thing when Tommy Richards again unleashed a hard knock into deep left field. I know my heart skipped a couple of beats until the ball finally came to rest in the stretched out glove of Scott Kalamar as he made a beautiful running catch.
With two out, Jimmy Obermark, the Gateway Grizzlies’ designated hitter, stepped to the plate. The score was 0-6 with the Washington Wild Things solidly in the lead. But what seemed to be the last out of a blowout game was much more to many of us watching because Matt Sergey, the Wild Things pitcher, had faced exactly 26 batters before Obermark stepped to the plate.
Many in the crowd rose to our feet, clapping rhythmically as Sergey’s first pitch was low and away – so much so that catcher Jim Vahalik wasn’t able to handle it and it rolled to the backstop. The umpire sent in a fresh ball for the next pitch. This one comes in hard, but way too high.
Alone on the mound, Sergey settles himself and delivers another pitch. This one is hit hard on the ground to shortstop Ryan Kresky. The hit had been to his right and pulled him far out of position. But he fires a blazing strike across the field to first base for the final out.
The crowd begins to roar. Strangers in the stands high five one another in jubilation. The Wild Things pour onto the field and mob Sergey. Men with cameras and microphones head to the field. The celebration is unlike anything I had expected to see when we decided to go to the game that afternoon. Sergey had just thrown the first perfect game in Frontier league history!
I went to that game with my wife and her parents. They, like so many others in the park, didn’t realize the significance of what was going on until the cheering finally died down and the announcer explained what had just happened over the PA system. I heard one gentleman nearby say, “Oh, I was wondering why people were cheering like we just won the World Series.”
For those who attended, there were two very different games being played. For many, the home runs in the bottom of the 8th inning by Maxx Garret and Andrew Heck may have been the highlights. But, while the Wild Things were adding to their lead, my attention was focused on Matt Sergey in the dugout. He was set off away from the rest of his team, seemingly oblivious to what was going on on the field. He was moving around a lot, standing up and sitting down, using up nervous energy, waiting to get back on the field, trying to focus on what the next inning might hold.
For the sport enthusiast, many times the seemingly simple games we play have a much deeper life to them. There exists an artistry and beauty deeper than that which can easily be seen by the casual observer. These things exist in many places in this world. I hold myself as lucky that I got to be a part of this perfect Sunday.