The day finally arrived for me to throw out the first pitch at a Lancaster Barnstormers’ game. Brother X was in town for the big event, and my friends John and Jim also came in from NY to bear witness. Debbie was also there providing moral support.
Debbie was the first to arrive and we picked up John at the train station around noon. Shortly thereafter we were in my backyard hoisting the first of many beers. I didn’t want to embarrass myself when I threw out the first pitch at 7 p.m. so I alternated between beer and water all afternoon. Brother X and Jim arrived a little later and the party was underway. Then we saw the first flash of lightning and the rain started coming down. We retreated to the porch, while I tried to figure out the odds of it raining every time I invite people to Lancaster.
We sat watching the rain come down for a couple hours and then it cleared up. So, we headed for the ball field. The Barnstormer colors are red and black, but when we got to the game it looked like we were in a sea of green. It turned out that it was Donegal School night and the entire school was there with their parents all wearing green Donegal shirts.
I asked the ticket takers where I was supposed to go because I was throwing out the first ball and they directed me to Section 9, the section behind the Barnstormers dugout. We were seated in section 10, so it was a short walk. I checked in with the guy running things and he asked me my name. My name wasn’t on his list. I wasn’t sure if I was feeling disappointment or relief when he then said, “That’s okay. We’ll get you in.”
It turned out that the Donegal School had several students lined up to throw the first pitch. They introduced the first one, who was a pitcher on the high school team. The green crowd roared as he fired in a strike. Next there was a girl from the school’s girl team. She blazed a fast ball over the plate and the green crowd roared some more.
Next up was a young kid in a wheel chair from the primary school. They positioned him a few yards from the plate and he rolled a strike right over the plate. The green crowd, and everyone else in the stands rose to their feet and went crazy cheering for the young man.
Tough act to follow, but that’s what I had to do. I was next. The green crowd settled down and I could hear Brother X, Debbie, John, and Jim cheering for me. Maybe I should have put that word “cheering” in quotes, because chanting “Let’s go, rag arm,” might not necessarily qualify as a cheer, but I was loving it.
They led me to the mound and I asked if I could cheat a few yards since I was a senior citizen. They told me I could throw from anywhere I liked. I decided that since this might be the only time I would be able to stand on the rubber at a professional ball field, I would pitch from there. I didn’t care if I threw a strike. I just didn’t want to bounce the ball, so I picked a target about two feet over the catcher’s head, gripped the ball for a fastball and let it fly. It bounced just slightly in front of the plate, just a little outside, and the catcher made a nice scoop to prevent a wild pitch. They gave me the ball as a souvenir, and I returned to my seat.
Brother X was still laughing. “You bounced it. HA HA.”
A while back he threw out the first pitch at a Long Island Ducks game and he practiced for a month beforehand. He threw a strike when he threw out the first pitch, so, he was in a position to gloat. I was just glad that I managed to get the ball to the catcher.
At least the Barnstormers crushed the Ducks in the ball game winning 11-4.
The next day Brother X called me up. “I’m calling to apologize,” he said. “I made fun of your pitching, but you’ve got to be way better than the rapper, Fifty Cent. You could probably be a buck or a buck three-eighty.” I hadn’t heard that expression in decades, a buck three-eighty. When we were kids and somebody asked us how much something cost, we would always say “a buck three-eighty” as a nonsense answer.
I didn’t know why I was being compared to a rapper, so he told me that he was watching the news and Fifty Cent threw out the first pitch at the Mets game last night and missed the plate by about 20 feet. He almost took out a cameraman in the process. My pitch was better by about 19 feet.
So, I’ve already decided to try it again next year, but next time I’m gonna aim 4 feet over the catcher’s head.
I’ll post more pictures when I get them, but until then, here’s the clip of Fifty Cent and his attempt to throw out the first pitch.
Peace & Love, and all of the above,