Every so often I find myself in amazing situations related to sports. Situations that I dreamt about as a kid and never thought would come to fruition. The latest, which I also believe to be the greatest, was receiving the opportunity to throw a first pitch for my favorite team. The Chicago Cubs.
I’m certainly not rich or famous. I’m just a regular guy from the southwest side of Chicago who enters a lot of contests. There are tons of contests that fit my interests and I enter because of the old Wayne Gretzky quote, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” It turns out that I have a pretty good shot percentage.
Rarely do I win the contests where only have to fill out a form. I win the contests where I have to complete a challenge, take a funny photo or creatively write why I deserve the prize. I’ve found that this is something I must actually excel at.
I’ve won countless tickets, autographs, a trip to the Final Four, played trivia in an Uber with Denis Savard and Scott Darling, had a behind the scenes tour of game day with the Cubs and even got to be a ball boy for the Chicago Bulls once.
Well, throwing out a first pitch at a Cubs game beats all of those.
How It Went Down
I saw a post on Facebook from Chicago Italian Beef who I have been following for a while. I love Italian Beef sandwiches, like most Chicagoans, and they have great contests. They often give out Cubs and White Sox tickets or other experiences relating to the teams.
This time they were offering a chance to throw out a first pitch at a Cubs game. A once in a lifetime opportunity!
I followed the rules. I liked, shared and commented on the post. Chicago Italian Beef later replied to my comment and attached a form in which I had to state why I deserved the opportunity.
I racked my brain for a couple minutes to think why. I came to the conclusion that everyone was going to give the old “because I’m the biggest Cubs fan EVER” response.
Well, there’s no way to prove or quantify that. It’s also not very creative. From entering a lot of contests, I find that creativity is key. You have to come up with something to catch the judge’s eye.
I came up with, “Everyone will say they’re the biggest Cubs fan and we’re all big Cubs fans. If given this once in a lifetime opportunity, I’m going to make the most of it and bring the heat like giardiniera on my Italian Beef sandwich. If there was a batter in the box, he better keep his elbows up like he’s eating one too, because I’m bringing it hard and inside.”
Keep in mind that heat is also relative. I know I couldn’t even hit 70 mph on the radar gun if I threw as hard as I could. I just had to stand out from the other entrants.
A few days later a gentleman named Aaron from Buona Beef called me and informed me I was a finalist. I was already overjoyed and I’m sure he could tell. He told me if I won I would receive a call in a couple hours. Those two hours felt like the longest of my life and you better believe I ran when my phone started ringing.
Day Of The Game
I woke up slightly earlier than normal that Saturday because the anxiety was already building. It turns out that I couldn’t sit still all morning. I found myself pacing about what Cubs gear to wear, messing with my cameras and even packing my daughter’s diaper bag. I admittedly never do that.
i went through throwing motions with my action camera attached to my hat to make sure it wouldn’t fall off on the mound. Then we were off to the park.
I received messages from friends and family wishing me good luck or saying, “don’t mess it up.” Thanks friends! My wife and daughter were the only thing keeping me somewhat relaxed.
— MLP (@Pappy_Hour) September 9, 2017
When I arrived at Wrigley Field, John from Buona Beef met me with a couple hats and some instructions. He was very personable and eased me a little more.
Then it was time to go to the field. Vickie from the Chicago Cubs led me to the field and I saw Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins! I admittedly looked it up and saw that he was also throwing a first pitch but it’s still really exciting as a fan.
I told myself I would try to take it all in but my mind was racing. I wish I took Ferris Bueller’s advice to look around because I certainly missed a lot.
The staff informed me I was first to go. I didn’t want to go first because I wanted to see how long everyone else took and acted but I was off!
I crossed the third base line, not stepping on the kinescope of course, and looked up to see my name on the scoreboard. That was cool!
Then I heard my last name get butchered over the PA. Oh well. I was on the mound at Wrigley Field in front of about 30,000 people about to throw a first pitch!
Here I go.
Hard and outside in the left-handed box. Well, I did say it was going to be hard, for me, and inside. It was definitely a ball but…I did it!
Rob Zastryzny who caught for me asked if I got it on tape. I didn’t, but he said, “The pitch was great. That’s all that matters.” My camera fell off my cap but I did capture him actually saying this. So that’s worth a lot to me.
Zastryzny and Jenkins signed my baseball to make one of the coolest moments of my life even better. That was until one of the ushers told me it was one of the best first pitches of the season. He’s seen a lot of them, so I’m going to believe him.
Everything was incredible and I can’t thank Buona Beef enough for it all. They believed in this goofball with a subpar arm to go out there and make them proud. I sure hope I did.
I’d also like to thank the Cubs and Rob Zastryzny for their professionalism.
It was an honor to have this opportunity and this is more proof that people actually win contests. Keep your eyes open and get creative because you’ll never know what your capable of experiencing.
— MLP (@Pappy_Hour) September 10, 2017