Anne in the Stands: On the Mound

Anne in the Stands: On the Mound

Early in June, I got a phone message from Nate Hardwick, the nice guy who handles my Brewers tickets account, asking me if I'd be interested in being the Fan of the Game this summer. I called him back and said I was thrilled to be asked, so sure. He gave me some dates to choose from. I picked June 16th, the opening game against the Cleveland Indians.

Luckily, Nate called me back right away to let me know I should be in my seat by 6:30 or so that night, and he'd take me out on the field.

I was stunned. I'd assumed he was talking about me being introduced on the giant screen for a couple minutes between innings. I was wrong. Nate was asking me to throw out the first pitch at the baseball game, like the governor, or President Bush or even Henry Aaron.

"I have a problem, Nate," I said. "I throw like a girl." Nate thought I was joking.

Girls didn't get to play much baseball when I was a kid. Maybe I could have joined my dad and grandfather when they played catch with my brother in the front yard, but I was more interested in my dolls. I guess that's why I didn't learn to throw a ball so that it would actually end up where I aimed it.

My son struggled to keep a straight face as I told him the news, and said all I had to do was practice. My daughters both burst into giggles. They were probably remembering the very early morning I tried to throw a rock at the noisy crows on the roof and shattered the living room window two feet from me.

No matter how nervous I got every time I thought about standing out in front of 30,000-plus people and throwing a ball somewhere near home plate, I was determined not to chicken out.

One night after dinner my husband went to the basement, grabbed two mitts and a couple of balls and said, "Come on. Let's go play catch."

For the next three weeks we played a lot of catch. I did get better. Borrowing what I knew from tennis I stood sideways with my shoulder toward the catcher. (Sometimes I would check the runner on first, hoping for a laugh from my catcher.) My best tosses lofted nicely, landing quite near my husband's mitt. Whenever I tried to throw harder and farther, however, the ball spiked wide, like the rock through the window.

"Just lob it," my husband suggested. "You'll be fine. By the way, how far from home plate is the pitcher's mound?"

I looked it up: 60 feet, six inches, or about twice as far as my best effort.

By the time June 16th arrived, I had convinced myself it wouldn't matter how well I pitched. I was going to have fun. My kids and grandkids planned to attend the game. Even our friends Linda and John had tickets right behind us.

When Nate came to get me, my mouth was dry and my hands were sweaty. We walked down the aisle and onto the field through the gate that only ushers use, and there I was, on the field, right next to the Brewers dugout, with a few actual Brewers stretching just beyond first base.

My view of the beautiful stadium with the roof open was magnificent. The seats were filling all around and above me, the sky was deep blue and summer filled the air.

I spotted my family easily in the crowd. My son had his camera focused on me, and my granddaughters were waving, so I took off my hat and waved back, as if I was taking a bow after hitting a grand slam.

Nate handed me a ball before introducing me to Chad Moeller, the catcher, and to the other fan, a man, who was going to pitch before me. My pulse thudded wildly as I watched him march out to the mound. To the delight of the crowd, he reached for the rosin bag and gave it a squeeze. Then he went into his stretch and threw the ball. I was relieved when it bounced in front of Moeller, and gained courage when the crowd didn't boo.

Then I heard my name echoing around the stadium. As I strode halfway to the mound (30 feet, three inches), I saw myself up on the giant screen looking confident in my Brewers hat.

I took a deep breath and lobbed the ball. I can't say it slapped right into Moeller's mitt, but at least the bounce was a small one, and Moeller snapped it up effortlessly, patted me on the back and autographed the ball for me.

The evening was perfect, especially after the Brewers went on to win. Any time they need me to throw out the first pitch again, I'm ready.

P.S. -- When I got back to my seat, my granddaughters crawled into my lap. The five-year-old put her arms around my neck, pointed out at the pitcher's mound and said, "Nana, you didn't go out where you were supposed to."

I know she'll never throw like a girl.

Anne Stratton is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.