Wollan: How to throw out a ceremonial first pitch

From Malia Wollan at the New York Times on July 3, 2018, with mention of SABR member John Thorn:

“If you wish to avoid chagrin, practice,” says John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball. Two decades ago, Thorn was invited to throw out a first pitch at a minor-league game. The ball bounced before reaching the catcher. “It was the mound that got me,” says Thorn, who still finds himself mentally replaying that one ungainly lob. If you’ve never thrown off a mound, don’t: The elevation will mess up your aim. Instead, stand in front of it, which also shortens the distance to home plate from 60 feet 6 inches to around 50 feet, increasing the odds that your ball will make it to the catcher.

Don’t wear restrictive clothes or footwear; you’ll need your full range of motion. When Mariah Carey strolled onto the field in towering high heels to toss out a first pitch in 2008, the result was a famous blooper. In recent years, ceremonial first-pitchers have veered more toward spectacle than sport (think Kardashians, toddlers, Chewbacca, Miss Texas, even a real monkey). Despite that, Thorn is of a mind that something worth doing is worth doing well. The ritual is, after all, older than the major leagues, a relic of the 19th century, when baseball still vied with cricket as America’s favorite sporting pastime. In the early years, waistcoated and top-hatted dignitaries and presidents threw out the first ball from the stands. Thorn is perplexed by what he calls this postmodern era, “when the more inept you are, the better people like you.”

Read the full article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/03/magazine/how-to-throw-out-a-ceremonial-first-pitch.html

Originally published: July 12, 2018. Last Updated: July 12, 2018.