John Wall set to throw out first pitch at Nats Park

April 11, 2013

Update: Wall got it over the plate this time, writes James Wagner on the Nationals Journal blog.

Original post: John Wall will be back at Nationals Park on Thursday seeking redemption for one of the most embarrassing moments of his young career.

For two years, Wall has had to deal with the ridicule that came with throwing one of the most pitiful first pitches in recent memory before a Washington Nationals game against the Baltimore Orioles (video from that attempt is above). Coach Randy Wittman didn’t hold back when he dubbed the throw – better yet, bounce pass – “the worst.” But Wall will have a second chance to leave a better impression when he throws out the first pitch before the Nationals host the Chicago White Sox.

“Last time, I tried to throw a bullet, like I was really [Stephen] Strasburg or somebody and that didn’t work,” Wall said with a laugh. “I just want to make sure I get it to the mound. As long as I don’t hit the ground, I’m perfect with it. That’s all that matters to me. I don’t want it to be like last time.”

At the conclusion of a light practice at Verizon Center, Wall was practicing his throwing form and explaining the difficulty of throwing a baseball from a mound to his teammates, Bradley Beal, Garrett Temple, A.J. Price and Kevin Seraphin. They all tossed baseballs from a half court toward a tall, padded structure that is often used to help players get more arch on their jump shots. Most of the throws were on target until Seraphin, a native of French Guyana, nearly shattered the backboard with an errant toss that put his teammates in hysterics.

He “hit the backboard!” Price shouted in shock, especially since the backboard was about 10 feet to the right of the intended target. When he heard that Seraphin had the least skills with the baseball, Wittman was surprised.

“If he kicked it, it might’ve done probably a little better than throwing it. That’s all we needed is break a backboard down there,” Wittman said, adding that Seraphin may have had more success if the players told him, “Try to hit the backboard then.”

The last time he was at Nats Park, Wall threw a pitch that was wide left and off the grass and forced Nationals pitcher Drew Storen to leap from the squatting position to save the ball from hitting the backstop. Not realizing that he only got one shot, Wall lifted his hand to get the ball back so that he could try again.

“I wanted a do-over. But this is my do-over, I guess,” Wall said. “I got a lot of jokes after that [first toss]. But it’s something I tried. I’m not a professional at that. That’s not what I get paid to do. Everybody thinks it’s easy. It’s just fun to do. Something to do for city and show support to the Nationals, but you also want to do a good job when you’re out there.”

Wall’s trainer, Rob McClanaghan, is in town to work out with Wall and will be in attendance when his client throws out the first pitch. Wall and McClanaghan  worked on his basketball skills after practice, with Wall in the midst of his best two-month run as a professional after initially struggling when he returned from a stress injury in his left knee.

Wall has bounced back and silenced some critics about his game. Now he is hoping to put some closure on his baseball exploits.

“This will complete my comeback. If I do this bad, I won’t do it no more for the rest of my career,” Wall said with a laugh.

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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Michael Lee · April 11, 2013