Cyclones’ Lucas Sheehan, Mid-Summer Classic MVP, with mom, Leigh Ann, and brother, Cooper.
By Sean Reilly
Picking out one player from a championship team as a tournament’s Most Valuable Player recipient is very often a tough decision for victorious coaching staffs at Diamond Nation.
Sometimes, though, the choice is easy. And that was certainly the case for coach Mike Pudlak and his Out Of The Park Cyclones 12U Prospects assistants after a dramatic 4-3 victory over the Diamond Jacks Super 12U in the final of the Mid-Summer Classic on Sunday afternoon in Flemington.
The OOTP Cyclones won the game by scoring twice in the bottom of the sixth and final inning. The winning pitcher was Lucas Sheehan, a Millington resident who pitched three scoreless innings of relief against a potent Super 12U lineup.
When Sheehan was announced as the MVP, it generated extra cheers and smiles from the OOTP faithful. It also produced a fair amount of tears.
That’s because on May 2, Lucas Sheehan’s father, Vinny, died suddenly at age 47. It happened the day after Lucas’s 13th birthday.
“He’s still been playing baseball, but he’s been a little emotional,” Pudlak said. “Even though we’re a club team, about five or six of these kids are from the town he lives in. So everybody has been trying to support him. It was great to see him go out there the way he did. It was the first time in a long time where we’ve seen him be himself and have confidence and just go at it again. I don’t care what he did the rest of the tournament. The fact that he did that, he was our MVP.”
Two things are near and dear to Lucas – his family, and playing baseball.
“There are no words to describe how happy I am for him,” said his mom, Leigh Ann. “In May, it was his birthday, the next day his dad died, and the next day he pitched a no-hitter (for his middle school team). Baseball has just been his savior. It was something he always enjoyed and loved to do with his dad, and to see him come out here on a big stage in a big game, in a big spot with a lot of pressure, I’m really proud. I wish his dad was here to see it, but I’m really proud of him.”
Lucas didn’t stop playing baseball after his loss, but he did ease back in order to grieve at his own pace, along with his mom and younger brother, Cooper.
The Mid-Summer Classic represented the biggest step yet for Lucas. He got the win in the first game of the tournament on Friday, a 13-0 triumph over Full Count Baseball.
“It was nice to be back,” he said of the weekend at Diamond Nation. “I’ve been playing, just not as much.”
His assignment against the powerful Diamond Jacks Super 12U was far different. He came in off the bench to pitch following a leadoff home run that gave the Super 12U a 3-2 lead in the top of the fourth.
It was now time to put his full focus on one thing – getting outs. And that he did, in a way that made everyone associated with the Cyclones proud. He walked his first batter, who advanced to second on a passed ball. But after that, Lucas was dominant, retiring nine of the remaining 10 batters with the only hit coming on a single that traveled just a few feet in front of home plate. He totaled four strikeouts.
Adding to it all was that he did it against a Diamond Jacks Super 12U team that averages more than 10 runs a game.
“I took a little time off,” he said of the last two months. “Winning this means a lot. My whole team has been there to help me out, which I greatly appreciate. It was great to go out there and just concentrate on pitching.”
Baseball is such a big part of the Sheehan family that Vinny Sheehan’s obituary made special mention of how watching his sons play brought him his greatest amount of happiness.
And if Vinny could have been at Diamond Nation on Sunday, he would have been overjoyed watching Lucas pitch the way he did against the Super 12U lineup.
“It was great to see Lucas shine, and I’m so happy for him,” his mom said. “His dad would be really proud of him, but he was always proud of him.”