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The Detroit Tigers’ recent decision to host Robocop as a ceremonial first-pitch-thrower got us thinking about the countless other bizarre first-pitch-invitees over baseball’s history. Normally, a team selects a popular celebrity, political figure, or musician to partake in the opening event. But in certain American cities and overseas leagues, baseball operations have a slightly more liberal idea about who, or what, should kick off a night’s festivities. The following pitches include some surprisingly impressive athletic motions while others prove to be pathetic, like Robocop’s (aren’t you supposed to be a superhero or something, dude?). But this list isn’t based off the outcome of the pitches thrown, because we’re not trying to embarrass those who have already embarrassed themselves in front of thousands of people. Instead, we present 10 of the most peculiar choices to take the mound before the start of a baseball game, accompanied by videos that will make you scratch your head.
10. Chewbacca from Star Wars
In 2005 the Red Sox elected for a movie character that can’t even speak English throw the first pitch at a game. Interesting move. His escorts Han Solo and Princess Leia add to the uncomfortable nature of this experience. The others make a brief cameo and are evidently just there as moral support for the Wookiee. It was a clever promotional technique, but it probably made fans wonder whether they were at a sporting event or in the jungles of Chewy’s homeland, Kashyyyk.
9. Jenna Marbles
She’s a comedic YouTube sensation, but is she well recognized enough to be chosen for the ceremonial pitch at an LA Dodgers game? For some reason I don’t think the audience watching her girl-oriented parodies on the little things in life overlaps with the sports fanatics at Dodger Stadium. Jenna Marbles had to be pretty low on management’s list of “First Pitch Candidates”, but she kept the ball in the strike zone, so that’s gotta count for something.
8. Shin Soo-ji
After watching the video, you can understand why Soo-ji was asked to participate in the pregame events at this South Korean showdown. Still, I can’t wrap my mind around how she twists her body like that. I also need to know, who’s in charge of picking who takes the mound? Shin Soo-ji is a member of the South Korean National “Rhythmic Gymnast” Team, meaning the exposure is certainly there. But what human being saw her on television and thought, “That's the perfect person for the ceremonial pitch!” Did her agent hook this up? Or did she contact the team herself? So many lingering questions.
7. The PhillieBot from UPenn
In this video, nerds and baseball collide for the first time since “Moneyball”. Science meets sports in this anti-climatic display of technological advancement. But seriously, didn’t someone already design a training machine that throws a ball 5 times faster and more accurately than this? I get that it’s an amazing achievement for local college students to have designed this machine, but the bot’s handler just stands there awkwardly the whole time. It would have been a better time for the fans if they had found an athletic entertainer, say, I don’t know, 50 Cent, to start things off.
6. A T-Rex
The entertainment factor dissipates quickly when you realize you can see the T-Rex operator’s legs moving underneath the costume while he runs off the field. Sadly, the ball only travels about 20-feet in the air. It probably would have helped if the dinosaur had practiced once or twice before taking the mound. It’s an interesting media stunt, but in the end it just goes to show that the Tyrannosaurus Rex would go extinct in the MLB.
5. A Cirque Du Soleil Performer
My understanding of how this decision-making process played out:
“Well, Justin Bieber’s not available for the ceremonial pitch. Just found out he’ll be in jail overnight on drug charges. Who are we going to find on such a short notice?”
“Hmm, Cirque Du Soleil is in town…let’s see if we can have them send someone over to do some acrobatics and toss the ball.”
“You sure? That’s kind of out-there and has no relevant connection to our city or team.”
“It’s the best we can do. Heck, no one even come to these games anyway.”
(After the pitch) “Someone write down this boy’s name, we’ll match whatever those freaks at the circus are paying him!”
4. A Ballerina
I’m by no means an expert in the art of ballet, but I have a creeping suspicion that the moves performed in the above video are just not that difficult. If you’re going to have a presumably high-level dancer throw the first pitch at a baseball game, make sure she shows off some advanced moves and stays at least partly on the mound. Also, if you’re going to throw a ball in front of thousands of people from half of the standard distance, make sure it comes relatively close to the catcher. If this girl could throw a mean fastball, I’d understand the choice. She belongs in a dance studio though, not on a baseball diamond.
3. The Girl from "The Ring"
Fans paid for tickets to this game expecting to see home-runs, not a horror movie. But the management behind this Japanese baseball squad had a different vision in mind, a show that would deliver countless goose bumps. Samara, one of the scariest movie characters in recent memory, stays in character for the entire walk to the mound, delivers a decent pitch, and collapses onto the grass in the creepiest way possible. Not quite your typical day at the ballpark. If real life stays true to the narrative of "The Ring", everyone who watched the jumbotron during this pitch mysteriously died within days. In hindsight, it was a nightmare of a selection.
2. Holly Sanders from “The Golf Channel”
Both pitches in this video are weird, but let’s just talk about the first one. Holly Sanders, who I might add is a complete nobody to the average American, chips a ball from in front of the mound to the catcher. This isn’t a pitch, it's actually a completely different sport. Who thought this was a good idea? Maybe if Tiger Woods were out there I’d forgive the Tampa Bay Rays organization. The San Francisco Giants invited Rory McIlroy to make an appearance once, but he actually threw the ball. A valiant creative effort, but ultimately a borderline mockery of one of baseball’s greatest traditions.
1. A Cat
The cat in this video, Tara, is widely considered a “Hero Cat” in her local community. She has her own website where you can watch her heroic defense of a helpless boy who was being attacked by a vicious dog. This is a wonderful, feel-good story that everyone loves. But not every good deed should be rewarded with a chance to throw out the first pitch of a baseball game. Especially if that deed is performed by a house pet. Regardless, someone thought it was smart to bring this cat to a game, have its owner swing its limp body parts at a ball, and call that a ceremonial pitch. No one’s debating Tara’s character, but she’d have been better off playing with a hairball than a baseball.