A strong pitching staff has helped Naperville Central to another strong season on the baseball diamond. However, one of those pitchers is stepping onto the mound for the first time as a Redhawk in his final high school season. The delayed debut for senior Jalen Chan is not because of lack of talent, but an elbow injury that robbed him of the chance to compete in the last two seasons.
“In late October I had an appointment on my calendar and it was with Jalen. He came into my office. He told me his plans, he looked great, he’s taking care of himself, he’s working really hard and we’re just really happy for him,” said Naperville Central baseball coach Mike Stock.
After missing out on high school baseball as a freshman due to COVID causing the cancellation of the 2020 IHSA season, Jalen Chan then had to undergo Tommy John elbow surgery in 2021, which led to a multi-year absence. Following years of recovery, Chan knew there were challenges ahead of returning to the mound but that didn’t stop his love of the game.
“I always loved baseball. It’s that the past couple of years have been rough with injuries and stuff. So I kinda lost a little bit of motivation in the game but I was talking to some friends and just practicing a bunch. I realized that I wanted to come back one more year to finish it off,” said Naperville Central pitcher Jalen Chan.
Chan did play travel baseball before attending Naperville Central, so he’s no stranger to dealing on the diamond at a high level. After three years of waiting, Jalen Chan made his debut as a varsity pitcher earlier this spring. Despite a long road back, he was confident that he would deliver for his team and build trust with the coaches and fellow players.
“It’s just trusting my body knowing that I did get the surgery and my elbow is fine so just trusting my body and just going back to what I’ve always done and just throw the ball,” said Chan.
“He’s got a presence, he looks comfortable, he doesn’t look like he’s had a better part of two or three years off. He looks like he’s been throwing every year and the confidence there and when he misses, they’re small misses I’ve been really proud of him,” said Stock.
His pitching has impressed coach Mike Stock and stud catcher Colin Barczi. Barczi has had the privilege of catching the heat from Chan and is excited to see him in a baseball uniform.
“I was there when the injury happened. It was a very scary thing so I was just excited to get another lefty arm in the lineup and especially with Jalen Chan. Everything he throws is moving and I knew he was going to be a great closer for us,” said Redhawk catch Colin Barczi.
Chan is mainly utilized as a bullpen arm, but is always ready to deliver when his name is called. So far he’s pitched an average of two innings per appearance and he hopes to continue his success for a Redhawk team that just secured the 2023 DVC regular season title. Now with the conference tournament and the regional round just around the corner, Chan is ready to throw the heat and help the Hawks to a deep postseason run.
The playoffs have been frustrating for the red and white over the past two seasons. Both campaigns resulted in twenty plus win teams seeing an abrupt end in the regional final, something the Hawks haven’t won since 2015. No matter how far Naperville Central is able to go, Jalen Chan will enjoy putting on his uniform and spikes one last time as he and the Hawks begin DVC tournament play next week.
“I just enjoy the moment like senior year. It’s my last time playing so just have some fun and don’t to be too stressed out about it,” said Chan.