It’s something that has baffled me for years, yet it continues to happen and I continue to not get it.
It has to do with the ceremonial first pitch before a major league baseball game.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for it as a nice way to honor someone in front of a large group of people.
Run ’em out there, wave to the crowd, throw one reasonably close to the plate, take a couple of pictures and exit stage right.
But it doesn’t always work out that way.
No one is expecting a 98-mph heater on the black to come firing in there, but it seems like there are more and more examples of these going wrong every year.
It’s one thing for Miss America or some random politician to lob one up there that won’t make anyone forget Nolan Ryan. Not Nolan Ryan, the pitcher who threw seven no-hitters. I mean the retired version of Nolan Ryan, who threw an 85-mph ceremonial first pitch in 2010.
He was 63 years old.
There are two standards here: One is the standard set by 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson), who threw one before a Mets game that is probably more famous than any rap song he ever produced. Plenty of others have fallen into this category, highlighted by Cincinnati mayor Mark Mallory missing home plate by so much that he hit an umpire standing 20 feet away. The ump tossed him.
Amazingly, Mallory was re-elected two years later.
No, the real problem here is the standard being set by pro athletes who throw out a first pitch. Don’t we expect a little bit more out of them than we do out of Miss Texas?
It happened again this year with Travis Kelce, famed tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs. He was throwing out the first pitch before the Royals’ opening game and got it maybe halfway there.
How does this continue to happen? How are there professional athletes – and I don’t care what sport – who are not able to simply throw something that resembles a pitch? Throwing a ball is not that much of a specialty.
Carl Lewis is one of the greatest athletes this country has ever produced. Ever seen his first pitch? Makes 50 Cent look like a Cy Young winner.
NBA star John Wall’s first pitch had all the trajectory of a dunk when he threw one out before a Nationals game a few years ago. He’s made millions of dollars, by the way, throwing basketballs to people. But he can’t throw a baseball 60 feet?
MMA star Conor McGregor can throw a punch, but he can’t throw a baseball. Last year, he threw one into the backstop.
That’s only a little bit worse than Michael Jordan – a former professional baseball player – who one-hopped the backstop before a 1998 playoff game.
They could all take a lesson from George W. Bush.
Presidents have been throwing out first pitches since portly right-hander Billy Taft in 1910, but nobody delivered like “W.”
It was at Yankee Stadium for the World Series after 9/11 and rather than just walk out there and lob one, Bush actually warmed up in the batting cages. This was no time to make a fool of himself.
“Don’t bounce it,” Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter told the President while he warmed up. “They’ll boo you.”
Not a chance.
Properly warmed up and wearing a bulletproof vest, the 55-year-old leader of the free world went to the top of the pitcher’s mound – both symbolic and proper – and fired a literal strike. The look on his face when he walked off the mound on that emotion-filled night said many things, including this: When it comes to a first pitch, everyone is now playing for second.
Contact JJ at firstname.lastname@example.org