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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

2012 Rock Cats Memories: Throwing a Ceremonial First Pitch; Meeting Terry Ryan

Steely Determination
 This past spring, when I attended the Rock Cats' annual welcome home dinner, where I was seated with (a pre-Tommy John) Alex Wimmers, I purchased $5 worth of raffle tickets and won the opportunity to throw a ceremonial first pitch before a Rock Cats game. I was pretty happy with the prize -- certainly better, and more unique, than a signed team ball or free game tickets.

I scheduled my pitch for a game in August for which I already had purchased tickets. When the day arrived, I have to admit that I was a little nervous. I have played in a softball league for a couple years now, but throwing a baseball is different, of course. I pitched in high school, too, but that was half a lifetime ago for me. Mostly, I was worried about two things: bouncing the ball and possibly causing injury to the player catching it; and throwing it wildly to the backstop.

You probably won't be surprised to hear that there are about 5-10 first pitches before a game now. Between charitable partners, season ticket holders, and drawing winners like me, there was quite a line that night. One nice thing -- the stadium was only about half full due to a late-arriving crowd. When my turn came (I was last in line, I believe, and was slightly intimidated follow a 10 year old kid who hurled a perfect strike), I decided to go with accuracy over velocity. After they called my name, I stepped up to the mound and, with a two-seam grip, was able to "fire" a strike to the catcher (who, I believe, is usually the most recent AA call-up). Just like that, it was over. No embarrassment; no Rock Cats player writhing on the ground; no popped shoulder joint. With these pictures, I'm hoping that TwinsDaily's Parker Hageman can analyze my arm action and recommend some areas for improvement (thanks in advance, Parker!).

Look at the follow-through

That same evening, Terry Ryan happened to be in town. This was a couple weeks before the end of the Rock Cats' season, and the possibility of September call-ups. Make no mistake -- Ryan was hard at work, closely charting pitchers all night while conversing with either a member of his own staff, or someone from the Rock Cats. On my way out of the stadium, I decided to say hi to Ryan. He couldn't have been nicer, especially after learning that I am a Minnesota native. We talked briefly about a few players, most notably Chris Herrmann, of whom Ryan stated, "he has plenty of bat to be a major league catcher." Oswaldo Arcia and Aaron Hicks also came up. Of course I didn't want to take up much of Ryan's time, but he was kind and courteous all evening with fans coming up to say hi, ask for an autograph, or give advice to a MLB general manager. Yet another unique aspect of Twins' minor league baseball.

Thanks to my friend, and Rock Cats season ticket holder, Sean, for the images and the company at New Britain Stadium!

Terry Ryan, pictured here trying to sign me to a MiLB
contract after watching me throw a ceremonial first pitch
strike. "Sweet Lord, we need arms," he said.

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