|Many thanks for your continued support of the PFA tour!
The Pitch for Awareness tour (PFA) has been in hibernation for more than a year. I apologize for my failure to communicate with you during this down time.
I was only able to secure one first pitch invitation during the 2013 MLB
season. On May 8, 2013, I had the honor to pitch at Camden Yards before
a Baltimore Orioles game. It was horrendous weather that day with rain,
wind, and hail. Despite the weather, a large contingent of my family,
friends, and supporters made the trek to Baltimore to see my pitch.
Friends came from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New Jersey. One
buddy hopped on the Amtrak in NYC after work, came to the game, and
then caught the 11:00 p.m. train back north (thanks Josh!)
Amazingly the weather cleared about 30 minutes before the game and
the tarp came off the field. As a result of the weather I hit a major
roadblock – I was not allowed to go on the mound for my pitch. The
Orioles rep. told me to stand in front of the mound. No way! I stood
beside the mound, parallel to the pitcher’s rubber, and threw a strike
from 60-feet, 6-inches. This was the only team to forbid me from using
the pitcher’s mound to date.
The rest of the 2013 season flew by as I tried and tried to get another pitch invitation,
but with no luck.
In July we flew to Pittsburgh to attend my wife’s annul family reunion. 2013 marked
the 25th anniversary of their family get-together. The day after I drove to PNC Park –
home of the Pirates – and met with Chaz Kellum, the manager of diversity initiatives
with the Pirates. Kellum is in a wheelchair, so he had a good idea of what I am trying
to accomplish with the PFA tour.
Eight months later, in March 2014, Kellum contacted me and invited me to throw the
first pitch at the team’s Disability Awareness Day. So on June 6 I was back in
Pittsburgh – on the mound – to throw a pitch at stadium #21. (There are 30 MLB
teams/stadiums, and I’m more than 2/3 of the way towards my goal.)
When you throw a first pitch, you never know who will be your catcher. It’s usually
one of the relief pitchers or coaches – and the occasional ball girl (see Boston).
But every now and then I pitch to the team’s mascot. So I took the mound and looked
to home plate to see the Pirate’s mascot – a Parrot with a comically oversized catcher’
s mitt. My pitch (a breaking ball?) drifted wide of the plate (BALL!). Of course the
bird was unable to get his (her?) glove on it and the ball scooted across the plate.
We then watched the game as the Pirates annihilated their opponent 15-3! I guess
they should invite me more often.
After our visit in Pittsburgh we drove east to New York City and paid a
visit to Yankee Stadium. During all the years of trying to secure pitch
invitations (via phone, mail, and e-mail) I was never able to establish a
contact in the front office staff. So I planned to walk in the front door
and see where it would lead. Along the way a friend of mine who
works with the Padres introduced me (via e-mail) to Dan. Dan works at
the Yankees in sales and previously worked as an intern with the
Padres in San Diego.
We met Dan at Yankee Stadium on a drizzly day when the team was on
the road and the stadium was empty. After talking about the PFA tour
Dan lead us on a tour through Monument Park beyond the outfield
fence and saw tributes to the greatest Yankees of all time. We then
walked through the stands and ended at the Yankees dugout. Seats in
that section go for $1,500/game. So we stood on valuable turf.
|Yankee Stadium - New York - June 9, 2014
|PNC Park - Pittsburgh - June 6, 2014
|Camden Yards - Baltimore - May 8, 2013
|United Flight 93 Memorial - Shanksville, PA
My wife joined me for this trip and we stayed and enjoyed the city
for a few days. A special shout out to Charlie H. who set us up
with tickets to see the “Colbert Report” and the “Daily Show”. We
also got the chance to visit the 9/11 Memorial in Manhattan. And
another shout out to Josh and the lovely Allegra who allowed us
to crash at their home in Brooklyn.
Back up a few days – to start our road trip we flew into Maryland
on Monday to visit family, and then drove to Pittsburgh on
Thursday for my pitch on Friday night. On our way across the
Pennsylvania Turnpike we saw signs for the newly constructed
memorial for United Flight 93. We decided to take a detour and
drive about 40 miles roundtrip to visit and pay our respects.
United 93 was the fourth hijacked flight on 9/11 that crashed in a
field in rural Pennsylvania.
Back to our trip – after our visit in NYC we drove back to MD and spent another week visiting family and friends. And – of course – we went to a
Johnny Holiday and Ray Knight co-host the Nationals pre- and post-game shows for MASN (Mid-Atlantic Sports Network). I first met Johnny when I
pitched at a Nationals game back in 2012. With his help I was invited to pitch in Baltimore the following season. So I decided to give them both
updated materials to see if they could help again.
We arrived at the game early hoping to catch the guys before they went on the air. I was invited up on the set and talked to Ray about the PFA tour
– he remembered me from previous years. He promised to make a few contacts on my behalf. But I wasn’t able to see Johnny as he was up in the
booth doing play-by-play for the game broadcast that night. I asked Ray how I could get my PFA materials to Johnny. Next thing I knew, just after
the National Anthem, I was in an elevator with a security escort who led me to the broadcast booth. So I sat in the back of the TV booth, just a few
feet behind Johnny, as he broadcast the first inning. We tried to talk between innings, but he was swamped and could only a few seconds to talk.
After two innings I decided to head back to my seat, but I would return in the 9th inning. He nodded in agreement.
Later during the game we hooked up with some fellow Nats fans who we met the year before when the Nats played in San Diego. They have seats
20 rows above the Nats dugout. By the 5th inning we were sitting next to them. After the 8th inning we headed back upstairs to the broadcast and I
got to talk with Johnny after the game. Like Ray, he offered to make contacts on my behalf.
Pretty good deal – we bought $5 tickets and I ended up sitting in the broadcast booth and, later, in seats near the field. Other than the ungodly
heat and humidity, it was a great game – and the Nats won!
Our friends had two extra tickets to the Nats game the next night, so there we were agzin, just 20 rows from the field, watching the Nats win
So that about wraps up my road trip. We saw three baseball games, visited three stadiums,
and I threw pitch #21.
Tomorrow I’m off to Kansas City to pitch on Thursday night (July 31) before their game
against the Minnesota Twins.
Hopefully it won’t be another year until my next blog post! Until then – happy summertime!!!