Might as well call him Bruno Stars.
Gregory Bruno fired a perfect game Sunday in Bristol, Conn., to help Staten Island’s Mid-Island Little League team beat the team from Berlin, Maryland, 4-0, in the Mid-Atlantic regional and advance to the Little League World Series.
Bruno, who is the son of a retired New York City firefighter, was a stud on the mound all afternoon, firing fastballs that got close to 80 mph while mixing that with the occasional offspeed pitch, striking out 12 in six innings. The 12-year-olds from Maryland had little chance, and now the team from New York’s forgotten borough is bringing all its attitude to the big stage. They face the team from Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday in Williamsport, Pa.
“One thing I feel bad about for these kids, when they get home, they’re not going to realize that they have to go back to school,” coach Joe Calabrese told The Post in a phone interview. “That’s the one thing they forget about. This has been going on for 10 weeks. We have another two weeks.”
Thus far this summer, Mid-Island is 12-0 in “All-Star” play and has outscored opponents 138-16. This six-inning game was broken open in the third, highlighted by Steven Martinez’s two-out, two-run double. Bruno locked the game down on his way to leading his team to the biggest stage in Little League Baseball.
“The kid is tremendous,” Calabrese said. “He’s got great work ethic. He’s a competitor. He’s a guy who wants the ball in a big spot and he did what he does. He pounds the strike zone, he’s got great offspeed [stuff], even though he didn’t use much of it today. He has great command of his fastball and he just dominated the game.”
This has been an emotional run for Calabrese, whose younger brother, John, died of a heart attack on Nov. 22, 2014. Now John’s son, John Jr., is on the team and they wear a patch commemorating his father.
“I feel like my brother is there with us,” Joe Calabrese said. “He’d be so proud of his son, the way he played today, the way he carries himself. It’s a surreal experience.”
It should be a good time for the Staten Island kids as they head off to Pennsylvania, where the best teams in the U.S. play against each other for the chance to face the winner on the international side. The Mid-Island team has long been a powerhouse, too, having been to the Little League World Series in 2006 when Calabrese’s son was on the team.
“It was the greatest experience he’s ever had,” Calabrese said. “This is something these kids will never, ever forget. I’ll have an emotional attachment with these kids forever. They’re great kids, great families. It’s just unbelievable.”
It’s also been a long time coming for the current group, as Calabrese said he has had most of the players since they were 10 years old and most of them train in the winters just for this opportunity.
“It’s not something that started two months ago,” Calabrese said. “The whole idea was we’re working from that first day to build up to this moment. They worked hard.”
Now the kids from Staten Island have a chance to continue their special run and bring the city along with it during the slow sports times leading up to Labor Day.
“We’re not done yet,” Calabrese said. “We still have work to do.”