July 30th, 2010 by Randy Parker
Two minutes to 7:00, I stand on the pitcher’s mound in Progressive Field, the home of the Cleveland Indians. The air of this musky Midwest summer stood still and only the quiet rumbling of the crowd could be heard. I look to the left and look to the right. A bead of sweat falls from my brow. I shuffle my feet a bit and kick up a little dust cloud. I look towards home plate. I make eye contact with catcher. I give him a nod, meaning…yeah, I’m gonna nail this one. I wind up and make the pitch!
Yeah, in my mind that is what happened…..
Well, I did throw out the opening pitch at a Cleveland Indians game. That much is true.
There was much buzz and anticipation amongst the staff at the A Christmas Story House. I felt like I was the new kid at camp where all the older kids tell horror stories of the creature in the lake or about the camp counselor who went mad. “Yeah, one time Mariah Carey threw out the pitch and didn’t make it to the catcher and the whole crowded booed.
” Boo Mariah Carey? I’m dog meat. I mean, at least she could wear a painfully tight Indians jersey with overflowing cleavage to distract from her bad pitch, but what do I got?
When I told my friends and family about the fact that I, Ian “Unsporty” Petrella, and yes that is my given name, about being offered one of the holy of the holiest sport opportunities, they laughed. They laughed hard.
After the laughter subsided, then all of the advice started flooding in. “Always point the tip of your foot towards the plate. Practice in front of a mirror. Don‟t step on the foul line because that‟s bad luck.” Everyone had a tried and true way to pitch. Even my mom called me from California with advice. I was like, Mom, where did you hear that? She confidently responded, “I saw it in Field of Dreams, Ian and it worked”.
Ugh. This was going to be like gym class magnified, but the ridicule would not only come from the jocks, but from about 40,000 Indian fans.
Game day arrives. I walk out on the field and notice that they are pulling out the tarps as it begins to rain. Whew! I am saved! I thought, but not to blow my cover I think I said something like, “Oh man, I hope the rain clears up. I‟ve been looking forward to this!” I spoke too soon.
6:58 pm EST. The rain has stopped; the tarps were removed from the field. I’m escorted to the pitcher’s mound, with fresh new baseball in hand and an Indians cap on my head. I toss the ball up in the air a few times, just to exude a sense of false confidence. I’m hoping it at least looked legit to the crowd on the Jumbo Tron because I don’t think I’ve actually held a baseball in about 25 years.
The “I can‟t put my arms down” clip plays and quickly cuts to me on the mound. The sportscaster announces, “Here to throw out the first pitch is Ian Petrella who you may know as Randy Parker form ‘A Christmas Story’”.
So quickly I run through all the pitching tips in my head….especially from a heckler that told Ms. Carey, “Stick to those high pitches, Mariah!” I wind up in Major League fashion and make the pitch. . I swear as soon as I let go, I closed my eyes for a split second just until I heard the snap of the ball hitting the catcher’s glove. The pitch was good! The crowd cheered!
I leapt from the mound and ran towards Slider, the furry fuchsia Indians mascot and embraced in a hug of victory! I did it. There was no humiliation. No boos from the crowd. No future locker room ridicule from the guys in the gym. Thanks Mom, the advice worked.
“A baseball game is simply a nervous breakdown divided into nine innings.”
-Earl Wilson, pitcher
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