Go to contents

Choosing 1st Pitch Throwers Differs by Country

Posted November. 12, 2009 06:09,   


Pro baseball leagues in Korea, Japan and the United States have crowned their respective champions this season. The games themselves are great fun, but the people who throw the first pitches of each game are also unique.

Each country has different ways of deciding who throws the first pitch. The Korean Series, which saw the Kia Tigers win for the first time in 12 years, invited entertainment celebrities including actors.

Though the celebrities had little to do with baseball, organizers sought to make the championship more fun by presenting popular celebrities. In addition, six of the seven throwers were women to appeal to men, who make up the bulk of baseball fans.

In the U.S., fans who watched the World Series opener at Yankee Stadium late last month might have felt a lump in their throat. First Lady Michelle Obama and the wife of the vice president, Jill Biden, came on the mound, escorting former New York Yankees and Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra.

Yet none of the three threw the first pitch. Mrs. Obama handed over the ball to retired Army Capt. Tony Odierno, who lost his left arm while serving in Iraq, for the honor. Dressed in uniform, Odierno was enough to elevate patriotism among the fans in attendance.

In Game 2, former New York Yankee Paul O`Neill threw the first pitch. He was one of the key players who led the Yankees to three consecutive championships.

In Game 3 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, who played for the Philadelphia Phillies for 17 years until 1989 and was MVP of the 1980 World Series, threw the first pitch. Major League Baseball has a tradition of having former star players throwing the first pitch.

On Oct. 31 in Japan, Game 1 of the Japan Series at the Sapporo Dome saw Kairi Watanabe, a pitcher of Nippon Ham Fighters` junior team, throw out the first pitch. Actor Yuki Kohara, who played Nippon Ham pitcher Yu Darvish in a film, threw the first pitch in Game 2. The real Darvish came on the mound as the starter and won the game.

In Game 3 at the Tokyo Dome, former U.S. President George W. Bush in a surprise threw the first pitch while wearing the Yomiuri Giants uniform. A baseball buff, he once owned the Texas Rangers.

A source at the Korean Baseball Organization said Korean baseball lacks many former stars to throw out the first pitch because of its relatively short history.

“In the future, we will select first-pitch throwers from various sectors,” he said.

jkmas@donga.com teawon-ha@donga.com