Errol Laborde is out today, so please enjoy the following blog post, which was originally published Aug. 15, 2011:
President Barack Obama and I have something in common, other than that we are both southpaws. Two summers ago we both threw the first pitch at professional baseball games. Obama’s toss came at the Major League All-Star game. Mine was at a much more meaningful event as the hometown Zephyrs tried to avoid falling deeper into last place by taking on the Iowa Cubs. This game, which was also designated as New Orleans Magazine Night, had a true sense of purpose.
There is no grander male physical gesture than grasping an object and throwing it. The feeling is certainly linked to the first Neanderthal man who hurled a stone at a saber-toothed tiger, or at another Neanderthal. Earlier that day I rekindled that feeling as I stood in the center of a ball diamond at City Park taking a few practice tosses. (I would have gotten further with my warm up had I had someone to catch the ball at the other end. Having to go pick up the ball and walk back to the pitcher's mound after each pitch got tiring fast.)
When I reported in to deliver my pitch at Zephyr Field I was surprised that I first had to sign a waiver. The form contained boring paragraphs of legal stuff that no one would bother to read, especially at a ballpark. I tried to take a short cut by asking what exactly might happen that necessitated signing a waiver. There’s a lot of activity on the field, someone said. I reasoned instead that the Zephyrs feared that my pitch might cause a shoulder injury. To the contrary, hurting a shoulder while tossing a first pitch at a professional baseball game would be a badge of honor for which I would have thanked, rather than sued, the Zephyrs.
When I was escorted to the field I was told that former Zephyr Kirk Bullinger would also toss out a first pitch. I was only half-kidding when I asked if it was logically possible to have two first pitches. I decided to end my query when I was told that my first pitch would be first which, to my reasoning, was really a first pitch.
My name echoed from the loudspeaker as I was called to the mound. Dave Matranaga, a Zephyr infielder, assumed the catcher’s position behind the plate. There I stood in a professional ballpark going through a wind-up. The Neanderthal in me was ready to fling….
For this paragraph I had prepared myself to make a joke by saying something like my pitch would have been a strike had the batter been 10 feet tall or had home plate been positioned two yards to the left. To my surprise, no joke is needed. The ball flew perfectly over home plate at a height that any umpire would have recognized as a strike. I was so stunned I even ran up to Matranga as though I had just thrown a no-hitter. I wanted confirmation. “Wasn’t that a strike?” “Yes,” he assured me. After the ceremony I was given the ball, which was signed by Matranga. With the setting sun, the moon made its appearance over Zephyr Field. Like Apollo 11, my autographed ball’s one flight had been flawless.
As I walked back into the stands I was expecting the accolades of the fans, but then I realized the experience was more like making a hole-in-one playing putt-putt. You look around to see if anyone noticed, but no one really did.
I watched the game celebrating my own private glory as the triumphant baseball bulged in my pocket.
By the way, Obama’s pitch was high and wide, not that I am suggesting any comparisons or anything.