So now it can be told: Carole did a splendid job on the Star-Spangled Banner at the July 22 Vermont Lake Monsters game, and I suck at throwing out first pitches.
As I said, throwing out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game ain’t no thing. No one gives a damn how spectacularly well, or spectacularly awful, the first pitch is unless it’s a celebrity at a major league game… and this certainly wasn’t that. Heck, there was hardly anyone at Monday night’s game – 1,566 was the announced attendance, but at game start, honestly, I think it was probably half that. (That number may actually denote tickets sold, including season tickets, as opposed to butts-in-seats.) It was a gray day and it’d been raining off and on all afternoon and wasn’t really a great night for baseball.
A few minutes before the game, we (Carole and I and Carole’s dad Glenn, who was visiting from Ohio) were shown out onto the field along with some folks from the presenting sponsor for that night’s game (a pet supply company — the first 500 fans got a collapsible pet bowl) and briefed on our duties. Carole got to do a quick sound check, which eased her nerves, and for my part, I was reminded that I didn’t have to throw from the mound and that I could come as far forward as I wanted. Wish I’d paid attention to that.
I was a little surprised when it turned out that I wasn’t the only person throwing out the first pitch — they had five balls to throw out, one for me and one each for the two adults and two kids from the sponsor. The sponsors got to go first — and it quickly devolved to the younger of the two kids, basically toddler aged, wobbling cutely around holding a ball while the parents and a catcher from the Lake Monsters coaxed him to toss it. Eventually the kid did and the catcher snagged it from approximately two feet away. Then the Lake Monsters mascot Champ stepped up and played catch with the kid for a bit. It was adorable.
So, this whole time, I’d been standing a few feet off to one side, kinda awkwardly, and when it finally was my turn, I wound up being my own worst enemy. Even though I’m quite sure that no one would have minded if I’d taken a few seconds to get myself squared away, I found myself kind of in a “must-throw-ball-NOW” mindset; we’d been out there for quite a while and I imagined that people in the stands were thinking “get on with it”.
So… pretty much as soon as the catcher had stepped back to the vicinity of home plate (he’d come almost all the way out to the mound for the toddler), I stepped up and …
… basically lobbed the ball right into the ground a few feet to one side of the catcher.
The catcher alertly snagged it on the bounce. I got a handshake from the catcher, got the ball back for a keepsake, and then it was time for Carole to sing.
(As we were leaving the field after the anthem, one of the Lake Monsters players in the dugout cheerfully snarked “Nice pitch” — but he was smiling as he said it, and to my credit, I just smiled back and said “Thanks!”.)