by Rob Joyce
When you think of ceremonial first pitches before MLB games, thoughts of 50 Cent and Carly Rae Jepsen dance in our heads. In other words, if you went up to the mound and threw a strike, very few will remember it. But miss in a horribly embarrassing way in front of thousands of people, all the while social media grabs the video and runs? That’s the stuff of legend.
So far 2017 hasn’t been any different in that there have been some memorable first pitches tossed, including last week at Fenway Park. This year, though, the list of “most memorable” isn’t limited to the merely embarrassing – it also goes into categories both creative and inspirational.
Each in their own unique way, here are the five most remarkable first pitches thrown this season:
5) Hank Aaron:
The Braves moved into SunTrust Park this season, marking the end of over five decades played at the Fulton County Stadium/Turner Field grounds. The Hall of Famer threw out the final first pitch at Turner last season, and Atlanta thought it wise to bookend matters by having Aaron christen the new ballpark as well. At 83, Aaron now walks with a cane and couldn’t get much on it, but no matter – anytime you get to see a living legend, it’s a momentous occasion.
4) Nastia Liukin:
The 2008 Olympic gymnast – winner of a gold, three silvers and a bronze – has experience at tossing out first pitches, having done it in Pittsburgh three years ago. Long retired from gymnastics, Liukin showed she still has something left in the tank, nonchalantly going into a cartwheel before throwing a strike to Albert Pujols. You could all do that, right?
3) Jim Downing:
An American hero, the 103-year-old Downing is the second-oldest living survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor that jolted the United States in World War II. Back in June, Lt. Downing rode out in front of the mound at Petco Park in San Diego to toss the first pitch before a Padres game, then was later interviewed about his experience on that fateful December day.
2) Coco Vandeweghe:
You’d have to imagine that this is a first. Back in April the Rays honored the U.S. Fed Cup tennis team, with the 25-year-old Vandeweghe getting the first pitch honors. Ranked 21st in the world right now, Vandeweghe utilized her strengths, using a racket to get the pitch to the plate!
1) Jordan Leandre:
It’s undoubtedly the most memorable pitch of the season thus far. Last week at Fenway Park the Red Sox honored their 1967 “Impossible Dream” team that went to the World Series. In front of numerous Hall of Famers, 17-year-old cancer survivor Jordan Leandre threw out the first pitch, as he was a beneficiary of the Jimmy Fund, a longtime partner of the Red Sox. He missed the plate badly… but hit another unfortunate area right on target for an innocent cameraman.