This afternoon Hideki Matsui joins the likes of many Yankees greats such as Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford to be called on for the honor of the ceremonial first pitch.
“I couldn’t be any happier,” Matsui said about being asked to throw the first pitch. “I’m so thankful for the fans.”
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It’s funny, when you think about it. All the person does is walk toward the mound, wave to the crowd and throw the baseball to the catcher.
But the Yankees take this honor seriously, always turning to a great from yesteryear for the special task. The MVP of the 2009 World Series, Matsui was a Yankee for seven seasons, batting .292 with 140 home runs and 597 RBIs.
Yet when you look around the majors, not every team treats the ceremonial first pitch with the same trip-down-history-lane as the Yankees.
For example, here’s who received ceremonial first pitch honors for other teams’ openers:
Seattle Mariners — Ken Griffey Jr.
Tampa Bay Rays — George Wendt, best known for being “Norm” on “Cheers”
Pittsburgh Pirates — Pittsburgh RB James Conner, who is battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma
Cleveland Indians — Black Keys drummer and Akron native Patrick Carney
Chicago White Sox — Chance the Rapper
Baltimore Orioles — Rick Dempsey and Maryland state Senator Bobby Zirkin
Detroit Tigers — Kirk Gibson
Milwaukee Brewers — James Beckum, longtime Little League coach
Texas Rangers — Tom Grieve and Bobby Jones will throw to Ivan Rodriguez and Rusty Greer
Minnesota Twins — Rod Carew
San Diego Padres — Former pitcher Randy Jones
And when the Kansas City Royals opened the season against the Mets Sunday night, it wasn’t just any ceremonial first pitch.
The reigning World Series champions said the ball used for the ceremonial first pitch traveled about 10 miles on Sunday from downtown Kansas City to Kauffman Stadium thanks to the help of 2,500 people who passed the ball from person to person to person.
When the ball reached the mound (via more relays, of course), an 8-year-old cancer survivor named Adrienne Cervantes made the final throw from the mound to Royals pitcher Wade Davis for what has to be the longest ceremonial first pitch in baseball history.