Katie Ledecky and Bryce Harper walked out to the pitcher’s mound at Nationals Park a few minutes before Wednesday night’s game against the Orioles, and frankly if they had walked right back to the dugout that walk alone would have been plenty noteworthy for D.C. sports fans. But the winner of five medals at the Rio Olympics and the 2015 National League most valuable player had other plans.
Scheduled to throw out the first pitch for the third time at Nationals Park, Ledecky first had to unburden herself of the gold and silver medals she wore around her neck. She took off the Nationals batting practice cap she was wearing and handed that to Harper. Then, one by one, she took off the medals and handed those to Harper, too. Then, she fired homeward, a strike (or close to it) straight into the glove of Shawn Kelley, who does not usually catch ceremonial first pitches like that.
Ledecky said she practiced throwing with some neighbors, like she did before throwing out first pitches in 2012 and 2014, and “was feeling pretty confident” going into this pitch. Before heading out to the mound with Harper, who she said is her favorite player, she got a tour of the Nationals clubhouse. The players didn’t have any tips for her pitch, however.
“They all wanted to see how heavy [the medals] were,” Ledecky said. “They are pretty heavy so … ”
The 19-year-old Bethesda native said she has mostly been enjoying time with friends and family since returning from Rio. She heads to Stanford in early September to start her college career, but for now, she is staying out of the pool for a few weeks.
“It’ll probably be the longest break I’ll take in the next four years,” Ledecky said. “It’s just nice to be out of the water for a bit and recharge for the next four years.”
Someone showed her video of her 2012 first pitch and asked what she thought of the changes that have taken place since those London Games, when she first entered the national consciousness. Has everything she accomplished since then, even since she threw out the first pitch in the 2014 playoffs, sunk in?
“Slowly but surely,” she said. “I expect it’ll sink in as we move forward the next couple weeks and once I get back in the pool and start working toward my next goals. I know you kind of just have to put everything you’ve done behind you and start working toward the next thing.”