Rotterdam pitcher throws perfect game, stunning Dutch baseball
Misja Harcksen pitched a perfect game this weekend in a baseball match between Rotterdam-based Curacao Neptunus and Glaskoning Twins from Oosterhout. He retired all 27 Twins batters on Sunday afternoon in a nine-inning game with Neptunus besting the Twins 4-0 in a contest that lasted just two hours and three minutes.
"I'm more than flying right now," he told NL Times. "It was the best feeling I've ever had, when I struck out the last guy right at the end."
Baseball is certainly not the most popular sport in the Netherlands, and just about 200 people were willing to brave the cold, windy weather at Familiestadion in Rotterdam to see Harcksen close out the ninth with two straight strikeouts. He finished his performance by shutting down pinch hitters Max Kops and Shurman Marlin for his ninth and tenth strikeouts of the game.
Harcksen only realized that he was pitching the perfect game around the eighth inning, he said. "I was feeling really good still, and I looked at the lineup card to see who I was facing, and I knew exactly what pitches I needed to throw," he said. "When I walked up the mound in the ninth inning, I thought to myself: you can't take this away from me anymore," he also told broadcaster NOS.
There were a few moments where that perfect game nearly disappeared, Neptunus spokesperson Michel Streur told NL Times. A drifting fly ball down the first base line was chased down hard by Neptunus outfielder Greg Muller, who made a leaping grab in foul territory over the right field fence to end the sixth. Harcksen said all he could see was the ball hitting the American's glove, before he completely tripped over the fence.
Muller managed to hang on to the ball, and the foul fly was ruled an out.
It was a stunning performance for Harcksen, who last pitched on April 7 in a game where he was bailed out by the Neptunus hitters and relievers. In that game Harcksen gave up six earned runs on seven hits in 2.1 innings. He was pulled after facing 11 batters and throwing 57 pitches. Neptunus came from behind to win 7-6 in that game.
Contrast that to Sunday’s game, which he completed on his 97th pitch of the match. Of the 17 balls hit into play, just six were hit in the air with the other 11 fielded on the ground. Harcksen helped his cause and assisted on two of these put-outs, handling a bunt at the top of both the fourth and sixth innings.
While it was a great achievement for him, Harcksen won't celebrate too long. "Today I'm enjoying the moment. After breakfast tomorrow, I'll be thinking about Sunday's game," he said of his upcoming start against Amsterdam.
A perfect game, when a pitcher throws a complete game without allowing a single baserunner, is very rare. Harcksen is only the third in Dutch baseball to manage it. The first was Graig McGinnis, the second was Eelco Jansen in 1997, according to NOS radio. Also in the United States, the birthplace of baseball, a perfect game is highly unusual. It only happened 23 times in 140 years in the top-level Major League Baseball.
Harcksen briefly played in the minor league system in the United States when in 2013 the right-hander was signed as a free agent by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He played three seasons with the Dodgers’ affiliated rookie team in the Arizona League and their advanced rookie team in the Pioneer League.
However he did not make a big splash there, playing 46 games mostly as a relief pitcher. In 65 innings of work he posted a 4.82 ERA, giving up 80 hits and 43 runs, 35 of which were earned. Much of that was in Utah, where the mountain air allows balls to travel further, he said. Still, he posted an impressive 68 strikeouts, and walked only 19 batters.
"It was one of the most beautiful times in my life. I can't even describe it; getting to play the game you love every day."
His primary pitch is a fastball with a velocity that recently reached 92 miles per hour (148 km/h), with a curve ball as his secondary pitch. He hopes to continue pitching as well as he did on Sunday, hoping that it might eventually draw renewed interest from the American teams.
"My dream is still to play in the big leagues," he said.