What do the following have in common?
- Stephen Colbert
- Lou Ferrigno
- John Goodman
- Joan Jett
- Joe Mantegna
- Bob Odenkirk
- William Shatner
The answer is, they all threw out first pitches in the majors last season, and so are enshrined for their efforts in Topps’ First Pitch insert cards, which are part of their 2017 Baseball Series 1, released earlier in the week. Of particular interest to us as D-backs fans, are two from Chase Field: musician Luis Coronel, which happened on July 16, and tennis star Bethanie Mattek-Sands, a little over a month later (Aug 17).
It’s an interesting contrast in styles. Though it’s hard to tell from a single still picture, Coronel looks as if he knows what he’s doing, while Mattek-Sands... Well, let’s just say, she looks more as if she’s lobbing an unwanted item back to the ball-girl, than anything else. In her defense, she is throwing with an Olympic medal dangling from her neck, which would likely interfere with more traditional mechanics. And what the still photo of Coronel doesn’t show is how wide of the mark his pitch sailed. While it’s understandable not wanting to bounce it, throwing over the head of your catcher, and nailing the arm of the photographer behind home plate, ain’t good either!
Anyway, I dipped into the archives, and found some first pitches at Chase Field that stood out. These aren’t typical ones, tossed by some random pop star or sports figure; there are dozens of those a year, from which to choose. I far prefer the ones which qualify as “different”, though American has some way to go to catch up with the Far East. Witness, for example, Korean rhythmic gymnast Shin Soo-ji's first pitch (the phrase “deceptive motion” comes to mind!), or the Japanese one which saw the villains of Ring and The Grudge face off. Really, MLB is not trying, despite the Padres’ best efforts. But that said, here’s three which amused, amazed and astonished respectively.
#3. Grumpy Cat.
I am entirely in awe of the way a single Reddit post was able to spawn an entire shopping mall of endorsement, travel, merchandising, books and even a Lifetime TV movie, entitled Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever (which Mrs. SnakePit reports is so awful, she was only able to tolerate about ten minutes!). She - real name Tarder Sauce - lives in Morristown, which is Northwest of Surprise on Highway 60, so counts as a true local. Now, if the D-backs can only get the other great area-born celeb, Lynda Carter, round about when the new Wonder Woman film comes out...
#2. I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords
Maybe this would be a good way to revitalize the World Baseball Classic - make it a contest between teams of robots. After all, there’s a already a robot soccer World Cup, with the goal of fielding a team by 2050 which can beat the human world champions. Baseball would be an equally good challenge, I think, given the complicated mechanics involved. I found video from about a decade ago, of a batting robot, but I think calling it a “bunting robot“ would probably be closer to the mark. I trust things have progressed a bit since.
#1. The kingdom of the blind
Game 4 of the 2011 NLDS, and the D-backs were staring elimination in the face. But if they needed inspiration, they could have done no better than Foundation for Blind Children graduate Max Ashton, who was accompanied to the mound by his father. Despite being effectively blind since birth, Max’s first pitch was far more accurate than those thrown by 90% of sighted people. Watch and learn, Luis Coronel: watch and learn...
Topps Baseball Series 1 is now available, wherever baseball cards are sold.