Before I tell you the story of our Arizona adventures I need to fill you in on some behind-the-scenes action with the Pitch for Awareness (PFA) tour. The
Boston Globe did a story about my pitch in Boston (aka the Fenway Flop) on their website. The day after that pitch I received a call from a producer at
ESPN. They saw the Globe story and want to do another story about me for their show E:60 – described as the “60 Minutes of ESPN”. So now I’m
working with ESPN to put the piece together.
While working with ESPN provides me a great opportunity to reach a national audience, it also has its drawbacks. ESPN asked for exclusive rights to the
story. This means I am unable to conduct interviews with any other media outlet until the ESPN story airs – likely not until this fall. So I was unable to pick
up on the wave of media attention I received in Boston and ride it through Phoenix.
Friday, July 15, 2011 - Phoenix, AZ
My wife, Mary Lou, and I climbed into the car for our 6-hour journey from San Diego (80-degree temperatures) to Phoenix (100-degree temperatures). Our
ultimate destination was Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
We pulled into the Super 8 motel located only a few blocks from the stadium at 4:00 p.m. I wasn’t expecting much from the place – just a clean bed and a
bathroom. But when we got into our luxurious room I thought there was a mistake. This room surely must cost more than the $59.99/night I paid. Brent,
the desk clerk, assured me there was no mistake. They recently renovated the entire hotel and all their rooms were of similar quality. Kudos to the Super
8 in Phoenix for a job well done.
As I mentioned earlier, I now maintain an exclusive relationship with ESPN (hopefully my wife doesn’t get jealous!). But this was difficult to maintain once
we arrived in town. I had agreed to in-studio interviews with both ABC and Fox affiliates in Phoenix, but needed to cancel them as I promised ESPN the
story before the interviews were set up. That afternoon/evening in Phoenix my phone rang off the hook (*) with media requests. Fox was the most
persistent of them all. First the producer called – then a reporter called – then their news anchor called. I finally stopped answering the phone and we set
out for our evening’s activities.
(*) How can a cell phone ring “off the hook”?
We met our friend, Jessica Cox, for dinner. Jess lives in Tucson, about a 2-hour drive from Phoenix, and travelled to Phoenix for the game.
Jess and I have a lot in common. She, too, was born without arms.
I first met Jess at an event in San Diego in 2005. She just graduated college and asked me for advice on how to become a motivational speaker. Myself
being new to the trade, I couldn’t offer her any substantial words of wisdom. But that didn’t slow her down. In the last 6 years she learned how to surf,
scuba dive, and earned her black belt in Tae Kwon Do. And she made aviation history when she became the first person ever licensed by the Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) to pilot an airplane using only her feet.
As a result of her accomplishments her speaking career took off. She was featured on “Inside Edition” and was a guest on the “Ellen DeGeneres” show.
She met President Obama at the White House and the Pope in the Vatican. What an amazing career for such a short period of time.
We ate a late dinner with Jessica, her fiancé Patrick, and several of her friends. We then retreated to our bed to rest up for the long day ahead.
Side note: I need to wear prescription glasses to see distance – anything past a few feet gets a little blurry. I have my regular glasses that I wear when I
pitch and a pair of Rx sunglasses that I wear when I drive – and I used them to drive to Phoenix. When we got ready to head out for dinner that evening in
Phoenix I needed to switch over to my regular glasses. Suddenly I had a major panic attack. I left my glasses by the front door and forgot to grab them
before we left. That meant two important plan changes. I had to drive at night in an urban setting wearing my sunglasses. But more important, I couldn’t
wear my glasses for my pitch!
Saturday, July 16 – Game day
ESPN got started on the story right away and had a camera crew in Phoenix ready to follow me around for the day. They met us at the motel at 10:00 a.m.
and shot video of me working on my laptop and other things around the room. We then set out for the car where they wanted to get shots of me driving.
It was over 100-degrees already at 11:00 a.m. So setting up equipment in the car would be a grueling task. The motel entrance has an overhang and there
was enough room for 2 cars to pass underneath. So I talked with Walt, the motel manager and got permission to park by the front door. This allowed the
crew to set up in the shade – a slight respite from the broiling heat.
Soon the car was rigged up with lipstick cameras – small cameras about the size of a lipstick container – mounted throughout the car. Once set up, Mary
Lou and I got in and drove towards the stadium just a few blocks away. We pretended we were on our way to the game and made idle, yet pertinent, chit
chat. Back at the hotel the crew changed cameras and we made another round trip to the stadium.
We broke for lunch at 12:30 p.m. and agreed to meet up at the stadium at 2:00 p.m. Mary Lou and I headed to “Mrs. White’s”, a small restaurant near the
hotel. Their specialty is soul food - definitely a new experience for me. We split an order of fried chicken and I chugged down 1½ glasses of sweet tea
(each glass was 32 ounces.). The food was great and the ambience even better. The staff was excited to hear about my pitch and I gave them all copies of
my baseball card.
We drove back to the stadium and met up with the crew. They taped a few things outside the stadium then taped me as I pulled out my (still) camera to
take a few photos.
Then came the best part of the trip! Chase Field has a retractable roof. And on that day the roof was closed. But more important, the air conditioning
inside was on! So goodbye 100+ degree temps!!!
Side note: My pitch was on Saturday. The previous Tuesday, Chase Field hosted the MLB All Star game. The team wanted the stadium to sparkle so a
week before the All Star game they closed the roof and sand blasted it to a shiny clean. They were fortunate they left it closed afterwards. A few days later
a massive sand storm unpredictably swept through the area. If the roof was open, the field and nearly all seats would have looked like a San Diego beach.
Once in the stadium I changed into my Pitch for Awareness jersey and requisite AZ Diamondbacks baseball cap. I was ready to go!
We unsuccessfully tried to get down on the field. The crew had media credentials and access for them was no problem. But I was not scheduled to report
until 4:30 p.m. To try and gain early access we tried to reach Tara, my contact with the team. We were told she was up in the luxury box area, so we (Mary
Lou, crew, and I) were on an elevator heading to the top floor. (It reminded me of the theme song from the TV sitcom “The Jeffersons” – Well we’re movin’
on up, to the East side, to that deluxe apartment in the sky. Well we’re movin’ on up, to the East side. We finally got a piece of the pie.”)
From what little we saw, the deluxe level was amazing. We waited in the Audi Lounge where you could wander out onto the terrace to see the field.
Watching the game from there must be an incredible experience.
As we waited I was getting a bit antsy. I really wanted to get on the field so I could throw some warm up pitches. Out of boredom I started throw faux
pitches at an empty couch in the lounge. Soon the camera was rolling and a crowd started to form to watch me throw a ball – at a couch! It was a great
way to vent my frustration.
Tara, my team contact finally appeared and took us straight to the field. I was ready to practice but had one problem – no catcher. So Tara volunteered
and I was now starting to loosen up my leg. (After the 6-hour drive the day before I was concerned my leg might tighten up.)
Once I started throwing the crew again started filming. Soon there were 3 more cameras (local TV news) recording the scene. Along with the cameras
were reporters with microphones in hand waiting to interview me. But I couldn’t talk to anyone but the ESPN guys. So I thought if I practiced long enough
they would go away… but they didn’t. I finally pulled Tara aside and told her of my dilemma. She then walked over and told the other cameras that I was
exclusive and they immediately turned and walked away.
Now warmed up, I was ready to go. The director of the on-field activities briefed me on what to do. Chase Field is one of two fields (the other Detroit) that I
visited where there is a dirt path that leads from home plate to the pitcher’s mound.
Side note: Without my glasses, that dirt path provided a direct line to aim for even though the catcher appeared blurry.
I was told no one is allowed to step on the (real) grass because of heat/sun issues. So I was to walk to home plate and follow the dirt path to the front of
the mound, stop, and pitch from there.
If you know anything about the PFA tour, you know my goal is to throw from the mound, not from the front of the mound. I explained this to the director,
who then consulted with the grounds crew to get his ok. Finally, just moments before the National Anthem, I got the green light. And the first thing I
noticed was the game ball sitting on the pitching rubber on the mound. This was the same thing that happened to me in Boston that helped throw off my
pitch. “No worries” I thought. “I’ll just gently nudge it aside.”
Well the director must have read my mind. When the Anthem was over he ran to the mound – up the dirt path – and removed the ball as I was introduced
to the crowd.
At the end of my introduction I received a nice ovation from the crowd. Then something totally new happened. The crowd got louder – and louder – and
louder! By the time I delivered my pitch it sounded like “the wave” was going full swing. What an amazing reception – thank you Phoenix!
And now – the pitch. Despite the crowd noise I went through my mental checklist before I delivered the ball – found the level space I needed – assured my
grip on the ball (despite the dirt) – assumed an even stance – and followed through on the pitch. It had the distance, but curved just to the left of the plate.
The catcher moved over to reach it and was in the perfect position to catch it. But the ball landed just next to home plate and suddenly bounced straight
up in the air right in front of the catcher. Well, he wasn’t quite ready and the ball bounced over his head and rolled to the backstop.
This was the first of my 13 pitches to get past the catcher. When I set out on the PFA tour I set 3 goals for myself: 1) Get the ball to the catcher; 2) Don’t
throw the ball past the catcher; and 3) Don’t make a fool of yourself.
So I broke rule #2. But when I saw the replay later I saw the catcher misplayed the ball, so we were both to blame.
So pitch #13 – AZ Diamondbacks – is scored a BALL.
This brings my record to 5 strikes and 8 balls. With only Houston (August 30) left on my schedule this year I will finish below .500 – with all my practice I
hoped to do better.
Side note: The ESPN and other crews filmed the pitch – and they also captured me when I walked off the field (via the dirt path) and kissed my wife! She
had only seen me pitch in San Diego and Los Angeles. So here being there made the pitch experience even better.
After the pitch we went to our seats where we joined Jess and Patrick. Her flight instructor came to the game (also from Tucson) along with his father
Jack and his two children.
At the end of the game we learned that Jack, likely in his early 70’s, had never attended a MLB game before. So I made sure we brought him down near the
field for photos after the game. (You can see them under the Tour Blog section of www.pitchforawareness.com)
The crew filmed me in my seat and asked for an evaluation of my performance. I wasn’t too concerned about the pitch being slightly off target, but I
thought I threw a bad pitch since it got past the catcher. I got to see a replay on the ESPN camera and realized it wasn’t as bad as I thought. To throw
another lame duck just after my Boston debacle would have thrown my confidence into a downward spiral.
The other thing to keep in mind – this was my only pitch without glasses. Luckily Chase Field had the dirt path to help with my aim.
The ESPN camera crew – a camera operator and audio technician – replaced batteries and tape and we then went for a stroll around the stadium
concourse. Our goal was to capture some of the fan interactions I usually receive after my pitch. We walked the entire stadium and got some great
reactions. I even went to the playground area and gave baseball cards to the kids and talked with the parents. Hopefully we captured a lot of good
Once we got back to our seats the crew decided to wrap (finish) the day’s production. They worked from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. And most of that time
was spent outdoors in the heat. They definitely earned their pay that day.
After the game we were scheduled to meet Jess and all her friends at a restaurant north of the stadium for a late dinner. When we arrived, only Jess and
Patrick were there. Parrish and family were in their car and, because of heavy traffic, were forced to exit the stadium parking lot south, in the wrong
direction. Since it was pushing 9:00 p.m. and they had a 2½ hour drive ahead, they decided to head home.
Since I was on the move with the camera crew most of the game, I didn’t get much of a chance to talk with anyone other than Mary Lou and Jess. I was
disappointed that they others didn’t make it… but it gave us a great chance to catch up with Jess and get the chance to know Patrick.
Just after 10:00 p.m. we finished, not realizing that Jess and Patrick were also headed to Tucson that night. So we said goodbye and headed back to the
Sunday, July 17
The next morning we had brunch at a restaurant near the stadium, then hit the road around noon. We stopped in Yuma, AZ – about halfway home – at 3:00
p.m. for a gas and bathroom break. The thermometer in my car read the outdoor temperature at 114-degrees. When we pulled into our driveway in San
Diego at 6:00 p.m. the temperature read 74-degrees… a 40-degree drop in temperature.
I now admit my favorite thing about Phoenix in July – air conditioning!!!
So I now have 13 pitches down and, after Houston in August, will have only 16 more stadiums to go. It’s hard to believe I travelled 32,267 miles and I got
Additional Blog Entry - July 18, 2011
In my Phoenix trip post I told you that I forgot my glasses – left them at home – and was forced to pitch at the D-Backs game without them. Well, I forgot to
mention that when we arrived home and started cleaning out the car I reached below the driver’s seat to remove my shoes. Can you guess what I found
there? That’s right, my prodigal glasses. I reasoned that, a) I wasn’t careless (aka dumb) enough to leave them behind, but, b) I was careless enough to let
them slink away. So lesson learned – always bring back-up glasses.
|Thanks for your on-going support of the Pitch for Awareness national tour!