The National Pro Fastpitch Chicago Bandits have given me the opportunity to check off several things from my sports bucket list. I have done broadcasting with Mike Knezevich, batted against Kirsten Verdun, took batting practice off of Kristyn Sandberg and several other fun experiences. Last Monday, the Bandits gave me one more unique moment. Thanks to the hospitality of the Bandits organization, through the organization of Assistant GM Jourdan Skirha and because of Global Traveler magazine, I had the privilege of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.
Jourdan contacted me about a week prior to the game and said I would be throwing out the first pitch. While I was really excited about doing this, I also knew I needed to practice a little bit. I knew I could make a good overhand throw, but this is fastpitch softball and underhand throws are encouraged (mostly by the fans who would jab me endlessly if I threw overhand.
I spent several years pitching on my softball teams, but that was many years ago and was an entirely different situation. I would just need a few practice throws to get the muscle memory back. I wasn't overly nervous or in panic mode, but I wanted to do okay.
I enlisted Jim Strong to video the moment and to catch my practice throws in the Bandits parking lot prior to the game. My main goal was not to bounce it in to the catcher. Of course, in practice, I was snapping my wrist and throwing strikes. It came back to me quickly.
We entered the stadium and Jourdan instructed us when to meet on the field. When the time came, there were a few young girls throwing out pitches and I figured I would be with them. Much to my confusion, I figured wrong.
I watched as the team lineups were announced and the players took their places on the baselines from home plate. I watched as the Chinese and U.S. national Anthems were played (the Bandits wer playing the Beijing Shougang Eagles). Then Jourdan signaled to me to take the mound. Suddenly, this wasn't one of the first pitches. This was THE first pitch. I was introduced over the PA system and Bandit Nation gave me a nice round of applause.
I looked at catcher Amanda Chidester and took a deep breath. I started the motion, but failed to snap my wrist and just lobbed it underhand. My toss made it on the fly...and then some. Amanda had to stand up and even reach a little, but she caught it. It wasn't the best first pitch by any stretch, but it certainly wasn't the worst.
After the toss, Amanda gave me the ball and I thanked her for catching my "slightly" high toss. She was a great sport about it. After the game, a few of the players joked with me about the throw, but all was in good fun.
In the end, it was a lot of fun. Jourdan and the Bandits went above and beyond in making this a special night. I am happy that the throw was decent, but it really wasn't a huge worry. I just soaked in the moment and enjoyed it for what it was.