Queen Latifah enjoys first-pitch honors

Queen Latifah enjoys first-pitch honors

CLEVELAND -- Queen Latifah's excited and all about her new album, "Trav'lin Light," and the tour that brought her to Cleveland on Friday night. And she's plenty proud about that Grammy Award she won.

But come on. Does any of it compare to throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 2 of the American League Division Series at Jacobs Field?

"No," Latifah said with a laugh. "This is pretty close to the Super Bowl for me."

In all seriousness, though, the famed singer/actress was elated to be tossing out a first pitch for her first time. She's been a baseball fan all her life and has a keen rooting interest in the Tribe-Yankees series.

After all, the girl who grew up in Newark, NJ, has finally settled on a team.

"I was kind of both a Yankees and a Mets fan growing up. Because I'm from Jersey, I could be. New Yorkers got to choose, but not me. I was a big Reggie Jackson fan, a Catfish Hunter fan."

Now, it's all Yankees. And despite the transient life of touring, she's still finds the time to keep tabs on her Yanks.

"[Touring] has been making it a little bit difficult for me to follow the playoffs, but we catch games wherever we can," Latifah said. "It's kind of hard to keep my security teams focused, because they're big baseball fans. So between them looking at the TV and me watching, we all kind of pitch in at this time of year."

She was understandably enthused then when asked to kick off Friday's game. The only problem was Latifah couldn't remember the last time she'd thrown a baseball.

So Latifah needed a strategy, and she needed to keep it simple. She would toss a few warmup pitches beneath the stadium, not lose any friends and then rear back and let it loose.

"I'm going to drill it," she said. "I'm just going to drill it in there."

As for the friends, she understandably kept her Yankees gear in the closet. She heard of the uproar aimed at Cleveland icon LeBron James on Thursday night after the NBA star taunted Indians fans with his Yankees hat.

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[LeBron's] got to pull it together," Latifah said, smiling. "Basketball fans turn into baseball fans in a minute, right?"

Not that Latifah was ready to sell out her beloved Bombers.

"There's no way I'm wearing an Indians hat," she said. "I like Cleveland and all, but I'm a Yankees girl."

She then went on to say she had little doubt the Yankees would overcome their Game 1 loss to the Tribe and push forward.

"We're going to close this thing out," Latifah said. "They took a beating yesterday, but I think we're going to make a comeback because we're competitive like that. So I can't imagine that it wouldn't go to the end."

Will the Yankees win it all, then?

"I'm going to say yes," Latifah said. "Colorado is pretty special right now, but I'm going to go with the Yankees.

"At least I'm going to root for them."

David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.