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As Pelosi takes to the pitching mound: Some of the best and worst first pitches

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Baseball has long been beloved as a game of catch, but 60 feet, 6 inches can also measure the distance between elation and embarrassment.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Just picture it - millions of people watching as that hand-stitched baseball flies from the mound to the home plate for a World Series strikeout.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE BUCK: Dave Roberts - that is strike three.

(CHEERING)

BUCK: Dodgers have won it all in 2020.

KELLY: You can dream, and most fans do.

SHAPIRO: There's also the American tradition of asking actors, singers or politicians to give the ball a toss - the ceremonial first pitch. What could go wrong? Just ask the former mayor of Cincinnati.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARTY BRENNAMAN: Just moments ago, Mayor Mark Mallory delivered the first pitch. Eric Davis waiting for it. E.D. had to almost go to the alley before he could come up with it.

KELLY: Yeah, that's a miss. Was that toss in Dr. Anthony Fauci's head when he couldn't find home plate in 2020?

SHAPIRO: The distance from the mound to home plate has stumped or catapulted public servants of all stripes.

KELLY: From right-hander William Howard Taft to lefty George H.W. Bush, presidential participation in tossing the ball is part of our democracy.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

HARRY CARAY: Ronald Reagan, the president of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #1: The Cubs are honored to have a special guest here today. Please welcome the president of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #2: We are honored with this presidential opener to have here in Baltimore the president of the United States, Bill Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #3: The 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama, will be throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.

SHAPIRO: That first pitch is even an important sign of normalcy in times of trouble. Many Americans remember George W. Bush's pitch during the 2001 World Series shortly after 9/11.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BOB SHEPPARD: For tonight's ceremonial first pitch, please welcome the president of the United States.

(CHEERING)

KELLY: Well, George W. Bush did own the Texas Rangers.

SHAPIRO: As a sign of friendship, the Washington Nationals have invited the British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, to toss out the first pitch at tomorrow night's game.

KELLY: And we know it's last minute, but we have some tips for Sunak before he takes the mound. Howard University's softball coach, Tori Tyson, takes it from here. She says, first...

TORI TYSON: Be aware of where you're most successful. Are you a overhand thrower? Are you a full windup or are you just a underhand toss?

SHAPIRO: Tip two is breathe.

TYSON: People don't realize, like, how nerve-wracking that can be. And it's not something you just jump in. It can be overwhelming. When you're adding a physical performance in front of everybody, it's different.

KELLY: OK, so know yourself, breathing. Finally...

TYSON: My third piece of advice is to really zone in on a focal point.

SHAPIRO: Coach Tyson says whether that's the catcher or the shin guard of the batter at home plate, it is really important to have tunnel vision. Got that Prime Minister?

KELLY: Truth be told, I think we would need a whole show to explain cricket, so good on you for trying.

(SOUNDBITE OF NIKI SONG, "EVERY SUMMERTIME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jason Fuller
Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.