How many people can say they had the opportunity to throw two ceremonial first pitches in the same MLB season? Megan Bozek, the senior co-captain of the Minnesota Golden Gophers (and member of the U.S. National Team), accomplished the feat in less than one month.
Based on the season that Bozek had, the honors are well-deserved. In addition to being a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award and the all-time leading scorer among defenders in Gopher history, she helped Minnesota to its first-ever undefeated season. She would also don the U.S. jersey and help the red, white and blue defeat Canada on home soil at the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds.
Along with their teammates from the University of Minnesota, Bozek and co-captain Bethany Brausen threw the first pitch at the Minnesota Twins contest on April 16 (an 8-6 win versus the L.A. Angels). The squad was recognized for its undefeated season and 2013 NCAA Frozen Four championship.
In addition, Bozek and her teammates sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch.
Of note, it marked the second consecutive year that Bozek was given the opportunity to grace the playing surface of Target Field. The Golden Gophers were recognized by the Twins for their 2012 NCAA Frozen Four as well (although Bozek did not throw out the first pitch in 2012).
A native of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, Bozek was given the honor of throwing out the first pitch for the Chicago White Sox. She was invited by the Pale Hose on Paul Konerko Bobblehead Night (May 11, 2013) to toss the ceremonial first pitch. Ironically, the opponents were the L.A. Angels once again (the Halos would prevail by a 3-2 score).
One of the finest rituals in all of sport, the opportunity to stand on the field near the pitcher’s mound and throw a ball to signify the beginning of a contest is a lifelong dream. With the unique distinction of having thrown two ceremonial first pitches in one season, Bozek is in the same rarified air as several United States Presidents.
In 1915, Woodrow Wilson threw the ceremonial first pitch in Washington, D.C., and then threw the first pitch for the World Series. Calvin Coolidge repeated the feat in 1924 and 1925. Other Presidents during the 20th century to accomplish a similar feat included Herbert Hoover (1929), Franklin D. Roosevelt (1937), Dwight Eisenhower (1955) and Gerald Ford (1976).
In this century, George W. Bush became the first President to achieve the double in 2001. He threw the first pitch on Opening Day at Miller Park, and then threw an emotional first pitch at the 2001 World Series.
Bozek’s opportunity to participate in the ceremonial first pitch ritual signifies the respect that women’s hockey is gaining.
In the last few years, she is not the only women’s player to have the opportunity to participate in one of baseball’s finest traditions. The Toronto Blue Jays provided Cassie Campbell (who competed with Canada at the Nagano Winter Games) with the opportunity to throw the first pitch on Canada Day 1998 (an interleague match against the New York Mets).
After the Vancouver Winter Games in 2010, the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox recognized the efforts of their respective national women’s teams. On April 12, 2010, hockey gold medalists Meghan Agosta, Jayna Hefford and Cherie Piper were among several Canadian Olympians recognized for their efforts at Vancouver.
Prior to the game against the Chicago White Sox, all of the invited Olympians threw a first pitch at the same time (with multiple players from the Jays catching the tosses).
The Red Sox recognized Danvers, Massachusetts, native Meghan Duggan on April 19, 2010. During a sold-out Patriots Day crowd, Duggan was joined on the field by several other U.S. hockey players that claimed the silver medal in Vancouver.
Erika Lawler, Jessie Vetter, Brianne McLaughlin, Julie Chu, Karen Thatcher, Molly Schaus, Hilary Knight, and Caitlin Cahow were all on the mound at Fenway for Duggan’s first pitch.
As Bozek now enters the next stage of her career, the challenge is to qualify for the United States roster that will compete at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. If named to the roster, she will look to assist a U.S. team in winning its first Winter Games gold in women’s hockey since 1998.
Should Bozek be successful, it will be a safe bet that she will be back on a Major League mound in 2014.