Baseball sells out the ceremonial first pitch

Once the domain of mayors and military veterans, this honor now goes to anyone with deep pockets -- or a good costume.

By Kim Peterson May 29, 2013 2:18PM
Houston Rocket mascot Clutch throws out the first pitch before the game between the Houston Astros and the Oakland Athletics, 2013
© Thomas B. Shea/Getty ImagesPresident William Howard Taft reportedly was the first person to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for a professional baseball game, tossing the ball from the stands to Walter Johnson in 1910 to honor the Washington Senators' opening day.

Since then, the first pitch has been mostly reserved for presidents, mayors and other dignitaries. Military veterans get the chance as a gesture of gratitude for their service. The first pitch meant nothing and meant everything all at the same time.

But these days, the first pitch is veering more into nothing. Just about anyone gets the ceremonial first pitch at some parks, especially those whose deep pockets who have paid to sponsor a team, according to an article this week in The New York Times. Or sometimes, a really good costume might suffice.

Baseball has sold off the first pitch, taking away any weight or substance the throw ever carried. Here are some of the people now entertaining audiences with the pre-game toss:
  • A Cirque du Soleil dancer in a skin-tight green body suit.
  • People dressed in Hello Kitty and Snoopy costumes.
  • Jamaican hip hop musician Sean Paul.
  • Reality show judge Sharon Osborne.
  • The star of reality show "Man vs. Wild" (who, by the way, set the baseball on fire before throwing it).
  • Capt. Wild Bill Wichrowski of the television show "Deadliest Catch."
Some teams reserve the first pitches for important executives who just happen to work for sponsoring companies. "Every now and then we'll say: 'We know we have a first pitch available, this key account is coming up for renewal and the CEO is coming into town. Let's offer them the first pitch to make them feel good,'" the chief marketing officer for the Pittsburgh Pirates told The Times.

Other teams will have as many as five different first pitches in one game.

Is it too cranky to bemoan the first pitch's lost dignity? Some purists may hate it, but other fans see it as another piece of pre-game entertainment. And teams get to make their sponsors happy, which keeps the revenue flowing.

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Tags: Sports
3Comments
May 29, 2013 4:34PM
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No one other than the family of those throwing the pitch find it entertaining.

 

And EVERYTHING in sports is now for sale.  Advertisements placed behind the catcher so it shows on TV.  The naming rights to ball parks.  The announcers in every sport having an advertisement tie-in for every event.  For example, the Lakers have an In-N-Out (burger) "whose in/whose out" announcement when the first lineup change occurs in a game, and an East/West Bank "who is going east, who is going west" to identify which direction the teams are shooting at.

 

It is ridiculous.  We are all saturated with advertisements.  I hope someday a study shows the pay back on advertising dollars is terrible, then we can rid ourselves of this scourge

May 30, 2013 7:02PM
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the ads on tv are bad enough, but I will be damned if I will buy any thing that is screwing up my puter. Keep the damned commercials off the internet!
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