20 Totally Badass First Pitches
In theory, agreeing to throw the ceremonial first pitch in baseball sounds like a no-brainer. But even though it comes with free tickets to the game and a chance to meet and greet some players, it's actually a relatively high-risk/low-reward scenario.
Generally the best-case scenario is that you come up big with a pitch that doesn't embarrass your friends and family but is largely forgotten seconds after it happens. While the worst-case scenario is that you stumble into history as one of the many "first pitch FAIL" videos that are lining the walls of the halls inside the Baseball Wall of Shame.
This is particularly true for anyone with name recognition, like an athlete or actor, who gets tapped for the job. These people already have the money for good seats and fame that gives them access to the players, so they gain almost nothing by accepting the invitation. Nobody will care if their pitch is solid or passable, but they risk lifelong humiliation if they're terrible.
Right, John Wall?
Wizards point guard John Wall has probably regretted every day of his life since he through out that first pitch for the Nationals back in 2011. Which is totally fair—he really embarrassed himself. What isn't fair is that so many badass first pitches slide under the radar, at least compared to their FAIL equivalents.
This is America, so the threat of being ridiculed for your public failures is always going to be a part of the equation. But that needs to be balanced out by giving props to those who succeed where others have failed miserably—it's a karma thing.
So let's take a look at 20 totally badass first pitches.
Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
There are some people who are so much better at life than the rest of us that it boggles the mind. Clippers superstar point guard Chris Paul is one of those people. He just signed a massive new contract in L.A. He's racking up bazillions of dollars in endorsements. He's happily married to a beautiful woman.
He's got an adorable son who probably thinks his dad is a superhero—and with damn good reason too. And he's an exceptionally talented baller who is the best at his position and one of the best in the game. How is that at all fair to us regular folks who struggle to find just one thing great in our lives?
It's only natural that CP3 would also be excellent at throwing out first pitches too. Not even the epic handsomeness of Dodgers stud Matt Kemp could distract Paul from the task at hand in April 2013. His son was shockingly unfazed by the massive stage, given his stature, and even showed some skills too.
Darth Vader Delivers
You never know what you're going to encounter at a sporting event in Oakland. Between those crazy Raiders fans and Darth Vader throwing out the first pitch at an A's game in September 2011, it's truly a unique experience.
It doesn't get much more badass than Star Wars supervillain Darth Vader. His hilariously bad pitch is a great reminder that many of our greatest fictional evil-doers are just nerds who were picked last in gym class at heart.
If Vader can walk away from a pitch like that without losing any of his badass cred, then is there anything we can't overcome, personally? Actually, that's a lesson that extends well beyond fictional evil-doers.
Chipper Jones, Retired MLB
The Braves couldn't get through even one game in 2013 without the services of their recently retired third baseman Chipper Jones. Understandable, actually, considering he spent his entire career in Atlanta—just a year shy of two full decades.
That's legit. The last time the Braves started a season without Jones on their roster back in 1992, some of their draft prospects were nothing more than a gleam in their mother's eyes.
So they had him come back to throw out the first pitch of the season at the home opener in April 2013, because that's the only reality many Braves fans had ever known.
Jones' appearance helped ease the transition into an existence without him. And he must have felt like a gangsta when he put that pitch right on the money in front of a sold-out, standing-room only crowd in Atlanta.
LeBron James, Miami Heat
Wow. Remember back when LeBron James was still the mayor of Cleveland…the king of Ohio…and was still assumed to be an Indians fan? I know—it seems like a lifetime ago, but I assure you that was actually all of our reality back in June of 2003.
James was invited to throw out the first pitch at an Indians game just a few months after being selected No. 1 overall, right out of high school, by the Cavaliers in the NBA draft. Thankfully King James decided to leave his Yankees cap at home that day—otherwise things would have started off on a very sour note.
Then again…it would have been quite fitting in the end…considering the note on which he left the city seven years later. His tenure in Cleveland would have been bookended with very unpalatable decisions.
Anyway, it should come as no surprise that James delivered on the pitch.
Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, Actors
While promoting their movie The Campaign in July 2012, comedians Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis stopped by Wrigley Field to throw out the first pitch and introduce the starting lineup for the home crowd.
Galifianakis has no problem getting his pitch over the plate to pitcher Ryan Dempster. Obviously impressed, Dempster then heads out to the mound to snack on some seriously Chicago-style pizza in between pitches.
Dag that pizza looks delicious.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was one of the greatest surprises and most clutch performers of the 2012 NFL season. Although, football fans—particularly those in Seattle—should be thankful they even get to see this kid play!
Before transferring to Wisconsin to play football, Wilson was actually a second baseman and closing pitcher for the North Carolina State baseball team. He was good enough to be selected by the Rockies in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB draft.
So it should come as no surprise that Wilson had no problem throwing out the first pitch at a Mariners home game in June 2013. The pitch sailed over the plate at a cool 75 mph to an impressed pitcher who was probably happy that he didn't have to fake enthusiasm and chase after a wild pitch for once.
Google's Do-Gooding Robot
In June 2013, a baseball-playing robot created by Google was on hand in Oakland to throw out the first pitch at an A's game. Given the advances in robot technology, not a super impressive event on its own in a vacuum.
Naturally, there's a twist. The robot allowed Nick LeGrande, a 13-year-old fan with a potentially life-threatening blood disorder who was forced to give up playing baseball, to throw the first pitch out all the way from Kansas City.
So next time some technology adverse old person in your life starts lamenting the Internet age, you can ask them why they hate making dreams come true for sick children. Game. Set. Match.
Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors
Even though basketball is a sport that overlaps a bit with baseball in terms of hand-eye coordination, the fact that players are allowed to touch the ball in both sports doesn't seem to give basketball players much of leg up in the ceremonial first pitch department.
John Wall and Dirk Nowitzki have both proved that, regardless of size, NBA skills don't really translate on the mound. Wall infamously threw his first pitch for the Nationals far left and straight into the dirt, while Nowitzki hurled his well over the heads of the Rangers catcher and mascot.
It seems we have a Goldielocks situation on our hands here. At 6'4", Wall was just too little. At 7'0", Nowitzki was just too big. But at 6'8", the Warriors Harrison Barnes is juuuuuust right. He falls right in the middle and throws it effortlessly to the catcher from the mound.
Bill Murray, Actor
Is there anything that legendary comedian Bill Murray does that doesn't fall comfortably within badass boundaries?
If you said, "No, there really isn't," then you are correct. If you said, "Yeah, I can think of a few things," then you are officially the worst.
Be that as it may, Murray is a regular guest of the Cubs at home and has no trouble making himself at home these days.
He threw out a very respectable first pitch at Wrigley Field in April 2012, but not until after he ran around for a bit wreaking havoc. You're the king Bill...you're the king.
Buckets Blakes, Harlem Globetrotters
You never know what you're going to get with the Harlem Globetrotters, but you can be sure they're going to put on a good show.
And Buckets Blake did just that when he faked out the Phillie Phanatic with his first pitch in the summer of 2011.
He pulls one over on baseball's most ridiculous mascot and then pulls another pitch out of his bag of tricks and puts it right in the strike zone.
We're not talking about the Washington Generals here—the Harlem Globetrotters never fail to deliver.
Unidentified Awesome Blonde Girl
How many notable people have we seen epically fail at throwing out a first pitch? Actors and singers have failed. Professional athletes have failed. Presidents of the United States have failed.
It's really stunning how many people either crack under the pressure or can't throw a little ball even 10 feet without it hitting the dirt or going wildly off course.
Which is why it's so funny to see this adorable blonde girl throw a heater right down the middle without a care in the world.
The uploader was kind enough to point out that Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton "bounced his first pitch from in front of the mound … after this girl nailed her pitch. Ouch."
Ouch, indeed. Ouch...in...deed.
In the week leading up to Memorial Day, the Rays planned a very special surprise for nine-year-old Alayna Adams, who was chosen to throw out the first pitch at a home game in May 2013.
The adorable Ms. Adams didn't exactly light it up with her pitching game, but it's hard to even remember the pitch after the pitcher takes off his mask and reveals himself as her father!
It's definitely a badass moment to see a soldier reunited with his family like that—an emotional reunion is the best medicine for a bad first pitch. Keep that in mind, folks.
Cirque Du Soleil
I'll concede that Cirque du Soleil isn't for everyone.
If you don't want to watch people throwing themselves around as if they were human slingshots in a spectacle while acting in a show that may or may not have been the bad dream of a meth addict, that's your prerogative. You can do what you wanna do.
As long as you give these people their due. Cirque du Soleil performers are amazing athletes with an impressive flair for the dramatics. Drama and athletics rarely come together so seamlessly as they do in these over-the-top shows.
If the performer in this video went to your high school, he probably would've been a varsity athlete who lettered in three sports and landed a starring role in the spring musical each year. You may have hated him, but all the girls would have loved him.
John Clayton, ESPN
ESPN analyst and American treasure John Clayton embarked on a pretty serious training routine to get prepped for throwing out the first pitch at a Mariners game in May 2013. The training montage was absolutely epic and badass in a way that only he can pull off.
Rocking the rainbow headband and your aged high school athletic director's outfit from when he had to fill in for an absent gym teacher, Clayton fumbles through various exercises and is essentially carried by a few lucky (unlucky?) junior production assistants.
I'd be lying if I said all the training paid off and that Clayton comes through with a seriously badass pitch at the game—because it didn't…and he doesn't. But he still manages to make the whole thing a net gain for badassery, despite a pitch that falls short.
Boston Bombing Survivors
In May 2013, Jeff Bauman and Carlos Arredondo, both survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing a few weeks earlier, were invited to throw out the first pitch at a Red Sox home game.
Now, I'm not saying that the fans at Fenway would have booed them—even the kid in the wheel chair—if either of them would have chucked their pitches in the dirt…I'm just saying that it's probably good that the opportunity never even presented itself.
As Red Sox fans, they probably would have understood and worn the boos as a badge of honor. But instead they can wear their on-the-money pitches as an even more badass badge or honor.
Seriously—throwing from a chair at the mound? That's just impressive.
J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
Heat superstar LeBron James always gets a lot of press for his crossover athletic abilities. Anyone who doesn't know that he was an impressive high school football player obviously isn't much of a sports fan, considering that story has periodically bubbled up into the headlines over the last few years.
That being said, King James might have some competition in the dual-threat department. Standout Texans linebacker J.J. Watt was the nearly unanimous choice as NFL Defensive Player of the Year for the 2012 season, but five years earlier he was a high school letterman in baseball, basketball, track and football.
Watt had always dreamed of a career in the NHL, but was forced to give up hockey because of the financial burden it put on his family. So it's safe to say that Watt would give James a run for his money in sports outside their chosen profession—or the profession that chose them, ultimately.
His first pitch at an Astros game in April 2013 is proof Watt's baseball skills haven't lost their luster in the years since he shelved his bat and glove. How the Astros didn't run onto the field and offer him a contract on the spot is beyond me. They certainly have the room on payroll this season.
The Padres are usually bringing up the rear of the NL West, but at least they do what they can to keep things interesting for baseball fans in San Diego.
In June 2013 a "Zombie Night" promotion took place at Petco Park—zombies are so hot right now.
The night was kicked off right when the guy who threw the ceremonial first pitch was immediately accosted by zombies after his pitch bounced off the shin guards of an undead catcher.
It's hard to tell if he was in on the gag or was legitimately surprised—either way he runs with it.
And the pitch itself was actually pretty solid on its own.
The Miz, WWE
As a wrestling fan myself, I realize that the WWE and The Miz may not be your particular brand of brew—which is fine, it's not for everyone.
That being said, anyone who denies the badass nature of The Miz's 2011 first pitch in Cleveland has clearly been snacking on crazy pills.
Wrestling may be scripted, but it doesn't matter what the script calls for if the athlete can't deliver. The Miz hams it up for the cameras, naturally, before launching a fastball right down the middle.
Show me someone who's not impressed and I'll show you a liar.
Shin Soo-Ji, Korean Gymnast
As a woman, it's particularly painful for me to watch someone like Mariah Carey or Kim Kardashian completely humiliate themselves by sauntering out to the mound in high heels and chucking a wild pitch to the far left and right into the dirt.
Obviously we're different people, but it's embarrassing for all of us when something like that happens. So it's always nice to see a woman who can actually deliver on the ceremonial first pitch duties.
South Korean rhythmic gymnast Shin Soo-Ji definitely delivered when she tossed the first pitch for the Doosan Bears in July 2013. She does a little move before the pitch that has zero-to-hero potential—kind of like the cartwheeling goalie.
If she gets a decent pitch off, she's going to be a viral sensation. If she doesn't get a decent pitch off, then she's going to be an even bigger viral sensation and earn a permanent place in the annals of sports failure.
It worked out in her favor. It worked out in our favor for the cartwheeling goalie.
Max Ashton, FBC Graduate
In Game 4 of the 2011 NLDS between the Diamondbacks and the Brewers, Max Ashton was given the honor of throwing out the first pitch in Milwaukee. It was a pretty big moment for a pretty young man, but he had no problem rising to the occasion.
Honestly, his pitch would have been impressive under any circumstances, considering how often people fall on their faces (sometimes literally on their faces) doing the same thing. But these weren't just any circumstances.
Ashton was there as a representative for the Foundation for Blind Children. Meaning that yes, he is, in fact, blind. Which gives him official "badass for life" cred. (And yes...that's a thing).
Following me on Twitter is also...a thing...that can give you official "badass for life" cred. So you should do it—assuming you can handle my flava: Follow @blamberr