I’m very competitive and very much a perfectionist.. So telling this story is a bit difficult.
I’ve never tossed out a first pitch at a ballgame before and never played baseball growing up. But I always wondered how hard it could be to throw a baseball from the mound, a mere 60 feet, 6 inches away from home plate.
I made fun of John Wall and others who botched their first pitches. I most certainly told myself that if I ever throw out a first pitch I will kill it.
That’s exactly what I did. Sort of.
I stepped on that pitcher’s mound at Nats stadium to the cheers of the DC faithful and prepared to deliver a perfectly pitched ball to a standing ovation. I even added a little theatrical flair to my moment. I asked for the right pitch from my catcher. I checked first base to make sure the “runner” wasn’t trying to steal second and then I went into my super cool wind up before I smoked my pitch on home.
Instead, everything went up in smoke. My pitch fell short and hopped twice before being reaching home plate.
I have to admit I wasn’t so much embarrassed as disappointed.
Chris Kinard, the program director at my radio station, knew I needed to practice and sent an intern out to buy a glove and a ball. He sent me outside to throw the ball around during the show. I threw it pretty well.
When I got to the stadium, the Nationals people took me into the batting cage and I had the honor of practicing while Ryan Zimmerman was warming up in the cage next to me. So I had more than enough preparation and support to throw this one pitch. And I didn’t deliver.
I now know why a pitcher is so valuable. I now understand why clocking 90-plus MPH on a fastball is so amazing. I will never feel comfortable criticizing Stephen Strasburg for a bad game again. I will always think back to the moment I bounced my first ever chance to throw out the opening pitch.
I guess there’s always next time. And people, I will be ready.