INDIANAPOLIS — There are few things are daunting as throwing out a ceremonial first pitch at a professional baseball game.
While the actual pitchers are (mostly) able to pinpoint an array of pitches — usually varying in speeds from 70 to 100-plus mph — it's typically a different story for other professional athletes and celebrities, who might've played Little League baseball years ago, but probably haven't thrown a baseball since.
Some ceremonial first pitches are tremendous; President George W. Bush's fastball down the middle Game 3 of the 2001 World Series at Yankee Stadium — just weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and along the eastern United States — comes to mind:
But many other first pitches, well, haven't been so great. There was, of course, 50 Cent's, uh, toss to the on-deck circle:
And then there was then-Cincinnati mayor Mark Mallory, who threw a first pitch that, honestly, set a tremendous baseball town back a few decades:
So when two new Indianapolis Colts players — outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard and rookie safety Malik Hooker — were asked to throw out ceremonial first pitches at a recent Indianapolis Indians game for the "Colts At Bat" event, you can imagine nerves were sky high when they took the rubber atop the mound in the middle of the very well-manicured Victory Field infield.
And here was the final result:
• OK, so both Sheard and Hooker get immediate credit for two facts: they threw their pitches from the pitching rubber (some do it from in front of the mound, and that's just not cool), and they abided by the No. 1 rule of ceremonial first pitches — don't bounce it.
• Both Sheard and Hooker threw likely strikes; Sheard's was low and in to a righty; Hooker's was up and in.
• Neither player really brought the gas at all, however, as both simply lobbed it into the plate. Maybe you can't blame them, however, as neither player seems to have much of a background in baseball; Sheard was on the track team, and did not play baseball, in high school at Hollywood Hills in Florida, while Hooker was more of a basketball and football star at New Castle High School in Pennsylvania.
Unfortunately, we can't compare Sheard and Hooker's tosses to those of wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and defensive back Darius Butler, who were supposed to throw out ceremonial first pitches May 18 at the Fort Wayne TinCaps' "Colts Night;" inclement weather that night kept Hilton and Butler off the mound.
We did see that former Colts punter Pat McAfee, meanwhile, was able to throw out a first pitch at a TinCaps game last May, and seemed to put at least a little "oomph" behind his toss:
…And then there's former Colts quarterback Chandler Harnish, who … did … this…:
Previous recent Colts first pitches don't immediately appear to have video evidence, unfortunately. Former tight end Dwayne Allen and running back Boom Herron threw out ceremonial first pitches prior to a Louisville Bats game in 2015, but there’s only photo evidence. And then, in 2005, Peyton Manning was joined by his brother, Eli, in a ceremonial first pitch prior to an Atlanta Braves spring training game in Florida, but all we have, apparently, is this still shot before or after it happened.
Anyway, for future members of the Colts who are asked to throw out first pitches, I'll say this: don't be afraid to rear back and fire it in there. Get to the ballpark a little early, throw some warmup tosses and get the arm nice and loose.
And there's always this: even if your pitch is just a bit outside, it can't be worse than 50 Cent's.
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