Alert the mascot, the camerapeople and the fans in the first 20 or so rows: Dirk Nowitzki will be throwing the ceremonial first pitch before a World Series game after all.
The decision came after Major League Baseball had put the kibosh on having Nowitzki, who led the Dallas Mavericks to the NBA championship in June, throw out the first pitch before a World Series game still to be determined when the series moves from St. Louis to the Texas Rangers’ ballpark on Saturday.
Later in the day, after suggestions that the move was baseball management’s gesture of solidarity with NBA management during its lockout, baseball reversed field. Pat Courtney, a spokesman for Major League Baseball, told ESPN Dallas that Commissioner Bud Selig had not been involved in the veto and ordered the decision reversed.
Nowitzki accepted after earlier tweeting about being dissed.
In the World Series, throwers of the first pitch must be approved by the league office. The Rangers confirmed to ESPN Dallas that they had submitted Nowitzki’s name — he’s a Rangers fan and sat behind home plate for Game 6 of the American League Championship Series — and that he had been rejected, for reasons that MLB did not specify earlier Wednesday. Citing sources, ESPN reported that the decision was related to the work stoppage.
“MLB absolutely denies that any part in selecting the first ball pitcher had anything to do with the current labor situation in the NBA,” Courtney told ESPN early Wednesday afternoon. “You want the club’s input in what makes sense for them and then we talk about what makes sense for the team and a good broad-base national appeal.
“It’s a nice problem to have that you get a list of 10 or 15 names and you work your way through them. We know Nowitzki’s been at the games and that’s wonderful. We’re glad he’s there.”
So, whatever the backstory and motives, Nowitzki is a go. Hopefully, he’s worked a bit on his technique — his first pitch at a Rangers-Mets game June 25 was more alley-oop than blazing fastball.
In any event, it’s going to be impossible to top Cooper Stone’s first pitch in the American League Division Series. Stone is the child whose father died at the ballpark this summer in a fall from the stands as he tried to catch a ball from Josh Hamilton.