D.J. Sims wasn’t nervous, but was pretty darn excited.
Sims, who recently finished his sophomore season at Archbishop Ryan High School, knew once his Catholic League team won its second game in the Carpenter Cup, that he would have a good chance at pitching at Citizens Bank Park. He also knew he would cherish the moment that just about every pitcher dreams of.
“It’s the nicest ballpark around, I wasn’t nervous, but once we won on Saturday, I knew I was going to have a chance to play there and possibly pitch there,” Sims said. “I wasn’t scared, I was just thinking about it. I thought about it all the time. At least every hour. I was really excited.”
The good news is Sims continued his brilliant pitching on Monday, hurling a scoreless inning, but it wasn’t enough as the Catholic League was bested by Burlington County 3-2 at the Phillies’ ballpark in South Philadelphia.
Sims recorded a strikeout in the loss after keeping Burlington County at bay in the third inning of a game that was still scoreless when he exited. His teammate at Ryan, senior Adam Estrada, had an RBI to bring the Catholic League within a run in the seventh inning, but neither team would score again.
Sims had a tournament to remember. He threw three scoreless innings in the team’s opener, a 6-2 win over Mercer County. He followed that up with a two-inning stint where he allowed one run in the Catholic League’s win over New Jersey’s Olympic-Colonial League.
The other team with Northeast Philly representatives, the Public League, fell short in its opener, an 8-3 setback to the Inter-Ac/Independence.
The tournament was the conclusion of a great high school season for Sims. The season started out with him seeing limited time and ended with him being the ace of a staff that won a playoff game.
“I think it was great,” said Sims, who lives in Chalfont. “In the beginning of the year, I just wanted to play. The first game I got the win, I came in and I thought I was just going to set them up and pitch an inning. I went seven out of the bullpen because the game went extra innings and we won.”
Going into that game, the Raiders were 1-4 and their only victory was against Bishop McDevitt. Ryan lost its next two games to start 2-6, but then won five straight to close the regular season and then defeated Neumann-Goretti in the first round of the playoffs. Sims pitched that game, a 1-0 victory, to help the Raiders advance to the second round where they fell just short against La Salle, the eventual Catholic League champions.
Sims doesn’t take credit for turning the season around, though he did play a huge part in it. He did go the distance in all of his victories apart from the one over the Eagles where he came in out of the bullpen.
“When I pitched against Conwell-Egan, I didn’t even know I was going to pitch,” Sims said. “I wasn’t playing much. Nobody from my family was coming. My dad showed up, but I thought only my mom was going to be there because it wasn’t like I was playing a lot. I figured if I pitched, it would just be an inning.”
But once he got his opportunity, he never looked back. He ended up as a Second-Team All-Catholic selection and probably could have done even better in the voting if he pitched more.
But he has no complaints.
“I worked my way into the lineup, we had a good team,” said Sims, who got wins over Conwell-Egan, Bonner-Prendergast and two over Neumann-Goretti, one during the regular season and another in the postseason. “I loved pitching. I wasn’t nervous about pitching (in the Carpenter Cup), but I was really nervous before the second Neumann-Goretti game. Very nervous because it was the playoffs. But I did good. We won on a walkoff.”
Sims was happy he got the playoff win for the seniors on his team and he was also happy to play extra baseball with two of his senior teammate, Estrada and his catcher Anthony “Tank” Price, a junior this past season.
“They’re probably my two closest friends on the team,” said Sims, who also plays on the Ryan basketball team. “It was great to be around them for a few more games. They’re both really good.
“I didn’t get to throw to Anthony. I know he would have liked to catch me at Citizens Bank Park, and I wish I threw to him, but it was great to be there with them. We got pictures there. This is something I’ll never forget. I got to play there with my friends, it’s a great memory.”
Sims’ high school season is now over, but he’s ready to get to work with the Maplezone Sports Institute. He’ll be pitching for them in various college showcases with the hopes of getting some attention. If he performs like he did during the end of the season, he will likely garner a lot of offers.
“I throw a fastball, a curveball, a chang-up and a knuckleball,” said Sims, who is in honors classes at Ryan. “I used to use the knuckleball all the time, but this year I didn’t really use it. That keeps people off balance, but I didn’t use it much this year. It’s a good pitch to have.”
Just like it was good to have experience pitching in the big stadium.
“This was fun,” Sims said. “It’s an honor to pitch there and to play on this team. There are so many good players here, it was just fun to be out there.”