By Mike Olson
The ceremonial first pitch is a baseball tradition that started in 1910 that consists of a special guest throwing a baseball to signify the start of the game. President Taft started the tradition when he threw out the first pitch at opening day for the Washington Senators, and every president since has had the honor to throw out a first pitch. When the tradition first started the guest would throw the pitch from their seats. That all changed when Ronald Reagan made an unannounced appearance at a Baltimore Orioles game, and he threw it off the mound the way it is done in modern times, the way I did it Thursday night.
The pitch is normally thrown by a celebrity, president, former player or by winning a contest…..like I did. I was on Facebook in June and The Mighty 1090 had a contest on their page to throw out a first pitch and without thinking twice and decided to enter the raffle. As I was filling out the form, the doubt crept in and I thought to myself, “I enter into contests like this all the time, for every team and every sport and never win. Why am I doing this to myself again?”. Then on July 2nd I kept getting missed calls from an “858” area code number but they weren’t leaving any voicemails so I didn’t think anything of it. Then finally they left a voicemail stating to call back right away. When I did and they congratulated me on winning the first pitch raffle for the Padres game on July 23rd against the Miami Marlins and my mouth instantly said what my brain was thinking, “are you being serious right now?”. I couldn’t believe that I was going to throw out the first pitch for a team that I am a die-hard fan of. After all I was born and raised in San Diego and this was going to be an awesome opportunity for me and something I never thought I would have the opportunity to do.
The following week I went down to The Mighty 1090 studio to pick up the tickets, and when I got there I took a tour of the studio and met radio personalities Darren Smith, Scott Kaplan, and Billy Ray Smith. I still couldn’t believe that I got the opportunity to do this, and from the radio station that I listen to every day, the only thing that makes my commute from Carlsbad to Murrieta tolerable.
Now that I had the tickets and was getting closer to the game the nerves set in, so I had to ask some of my closest friends for advice. One friend told me to take a moment each day and imagine walking out to the mound and visualize you are there, so when the day finally comes and you are out there it won’t seem a big deal. The other advice I got was just imagine you’re playing catch with the catcher and aim for his head. I know I can throw a baseball 60’ but doing it at a stadium that I’ve been going to since it opened in 2004 and a team that I have admired my whole life was going to be nerve wracking. Leading up to the game I made sure I practiced with friends making sure my arm was strong enough to get the ball to home plate. I told myself I would throw it in the crowd before I bounced it or throw it like “50 Cent.”
The month flew by and next thing I know I’m checking in with the Padres and getting my on-field credentials walking to the field. Even at this moment I couldn’t believe that I was about to throw out the first pitch. As it got closer for me to go out to the mound the nerves kicked in but so did the confidence from having a big group of family and friends to support me. As I walked out to the mound I took a deep breath and got ready to pitch. I wanted to have fun with this experience and as a result I decided to go up there and get into the closer for the Padres Craig Kimbrel’s stance. I leaned my chest to the face the ground and raised my right arm into the claw position. I stood there and the Friar mascot was catching my pitch and he singled for a pitch and I shook it off, we did this three times then I knew I had to throw the pitch. So I gave it my all and threw a strike right over the plate. I was so excited that I threw a good pitch. The Friar even dropped the glove and shook his hand like I threw some heat.
The following day I went to the Del Mar horse races because The Mighty 1090 was having a listener’s party. I ran into Scott Kaplan and told him about the pitch and he told me he wanted to put me on air, something else that I have always wanted to do but never thought it would happen. I sat on air with these guys for 20 minutes talking about the Padres and if the team should sell. I couldn’t believe the host were interviewing ME about the Padres.
It was an experience that I will never forget. To get the opportunity to experience something like this in front of my friends and family and to get to much support was awesome. Thank you very much Mighty 1090, I will never forget it.