Stringer joins Sox for a single pitch

... oooph, the ball sails through the air, falls to the ground 20 feet away ...

from Don Norris

The crowd cheered when it was announced that the fellow selected to throw
the first pitch was an ex-Marine. Patriotism was alive!

That fellow was me. The Boston Globe had a contest, and out of some four
thousand entries, my name was selected. All this happened very suddenly, in
early September.

I was to throw out the first pitch before the Red Sox game on Monday
evening, September 8, at no less than Fenway Park! Me? I haven't played
baseball since fourth grade. I played football, basketball, volleyball, golfed,
shot all sorts of firearms, and pitched for the JayCees in the Men's Slow-Pitch
softball league - but never again did I ever play real baseball. Not after
striking out on three successive curve balls in the fourth grade.

Imagine! I didn't even know my wife had entered my name, and when this
nice lady called from the Globe, I thought, another pitch for selling
newspapers. Not so, this was the real thing.

Anyway, this pretty girl dressed in tight-fitting Red Sox uniform, walked me
out to the mound, handed me a brand new ball, and asked, "Are you ready,
Mr. Norris?" The stands were certainly not full at this early evening, but they
cheered me for no other reason than I won the lottery. And they certainly
cheered when the announcer told them that Mr. Norris is an ex-Marine.

My picture with the cute catcher was thrown up on the huge billboard screen
out in center field. That's amazing to see your own image, especially THERE -
- at Fenway Park. Actually there were two winners, a fellow from the South
Shore was to also throw an opening pitch -- simultaneously.

My catcher-in-the-cute-suit asked, "Are you ready to pitch, Mr. Norris?"

Man, I had been been preparing for this moment for three days -- I didn't
think I had to practice, for what's not easy in throwing a fast-ball some 80
feet to a pretty young thing? So I woundup, mimicking the pro pitchers we all
have seen on the TV, and let the ball careen out of my hand. It must have
been going a hundred-miles-an-hour.

But then the ball, only 20 feet from the mound, bounced on the ground. It
then bounced again, and once more before reaching my pretty catcher. The
crowd cheered as I stood there, dumb-founded, arms spread apart,
wondering what ever happened to my throwing arm.

The problem, I discovered in retrospect, is age. This contest winner is 83
years old. But it was all in fun.

The prize (besides being a pitcher) was four tickets to the game. My
granddaughter Kathryn and her Zach joined Lorry and me at Fenway Park,
and we had a ball.

The downside of this wondrous happening was that the Red Sox lost to the
Baltimore Orioles -- that night, the next day, and again in the third game.
Maybe they shouda put me in ...

Thank you, Boston Globe, and the Boston Red Sox, for putting up with this
aging athlete. I must say that the past half century as a journalist has been a
great life.

My good looking catcher, who caught the ball on the third bounce.

October 3, 2014

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