When I last left you, it was the Friday before the big event. Two days until I tossed out the first pitch before the Cubs-Reds game. No big deal, right?
WRONG!!! A very big deal...OY!!!
It's not just the toss from the mound, although there's some of that; it's all the things leading up to that fifteen second event that lowers your life expectancy by ten or so years. There's a lot of overthinking going on.
I found out about this honor, and yeah, it's a pretty big honor, five days ahead of time. FIVE DAYS PEOPLE! It wasn't five days to get ready. It was five days to fret about the thing....and man did I fret.
First there were tickets. Mine were easy, I just had to take a ten minute ride to pick them up. But, I needed a few for the kids. I mean, if you were throwing out the first pitch, wouldn't you want your family to be there? Of course you would. Off to the Wrigley Field box office. Only standing room. Pffft. Next stop is calling the ticket brokers. Cha Ching $$$$!!!! Yikes, but I bought three tickets and when I went to pick them up, they were coming from a different office in the suburbs, "Could you come back in a few hours or tomorrow?" C'mon!!! Are you kidding me? Don't you know I'm throwing out the first pitch at the game Sunday? Don't you realize how stressful this thing is? Yeah....I'll come back tomorrow. Sigh!!
Next was the stress of making the actual pitch. I realized that I hadn't thrown a ball in more than a decade. Could I actually handle the act of throwing a baseball? Hmmm...and what am I going to throw? Two or four seam fastball? Curve or changeup? So many decisions to make. Plus, do I practice or just wing it and hope for the best? I had offers from a few people to play catch, but that would take away valuable stressing time. My friend Emily (hi Em) sent me a text saying she was going to send Sandy Koufax over to my house to work with me. As cool as it would be to hang out with one of all time favorite players (btw, Happy New Year, Sandy), Koufax is now eighty-two years old and has had an arthritic elbow for more than fifty years. When he threw out the first pitch at last year's World Series Game 7, he did it from about 30 feet. Hmmmm....maybe I should have take her advice?
So....I just decided to wing it. I wonder how that'll go?
That brings us to game day. Welcome to Wrigley Field. Home of the Chicago Cubs. 11:20 am. Yep, you're reading that right. They want you there two hours before the game. TWO F'ING HOURS!!
I live ten minutes from Wrigley. I go to ten or so games a year and I try to get there about five minutes before the start. What the Hell are we going to do for two hours besides stress?
Well, first the good news...they feed you. Did you know they have a somewhat fancy restaurant there? Nice brunch buffet. I can't remember the last time I had lamb chops and scallops for a pre-game meal. Oh yeah, NEVER!!
It's time to head down to the field. Lots of Cubs employees talking you through the logistics of the event. You get a jersey and a baseball. You can see mine is number 18. I'm thinking Glenn Beckert and Ben Zobrist. They told me the number is for the year so I'll always remember when I did this. Hmmm...you think that's why my name is on the back of the jersey, too?
I'm going to be the second of the three throwing pitches. The first guy is warming up. Hmmmm...that seems like a good idea. I asked his catcher if I could throw a couple, too. My tosses should have been a sign. Maybe I should have said yes to the friends who wanted to play catch? Maybe I should have gotten together with Koufax?
Hey, look who else is here? It's Wayne Messmer. He's going to sing the National Anthem. I said hello, told him I was throwing out the first pitch and asked him if he would like to switch gigs for the day? He laughed but uh uh...it's not going to happen. Probably a good thing. My singing isn't nearly as good as my throwing. Scary!
Here we go...it's throw time! Five days of no sleep is coming down to this. First man up....FASTBALL...right in the middle of the plate. FUCKKKKKK!!!!! Can't top that one.
I'm next. I hear my introduction and I wave to the crowd as I trot out to the pitcher's mound. I have to admit, it's awesome being out there. I kick up a little dirt, step on the pitching rubber, look for Cubs catcher Taylor Davis and fire away. Well, fire is overstating this more than a little. It was a lob towards home plate that made it there on one bounce. I could hear a few boos...bastards. I jogged off the mound, shook Taylor's hand, told him at least no one was injured, he autographed the ball and that was it.
Fifteen seconds of fame.
It's a lot of stress for those fifteen seconds...lot of stress.
It's four days later and I'm still thinking about this day. It was worth all the stress...every second of it. I want to thank the folks at Lincoln Park Community Services for asking me to do this (they had a lot of other choices), plus Comcast and the Cubs. It quite a thrill to do this and it will be something that you would never forget, even if there was no jersey.
But I'm still thinking about that pitch. What could I have done to make it better? What would I do next time? Hmmm....does anyone have Sandy Koufax's phone number?
Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.