Just as much as we’ve grown to love our not-so top tens for opening pitches, us as fans have also come to really enjoy being surprised by unforeseen feats of athleticism at the mound. However, it’s also important to note that more often than not, good opening pitches get swept under the rug, often considered a formality. The fact is that very often those invited to grace the mound at the start of games and who do a good job, don’t get the credit they deserve. For someone who isn’t a professional athlete, getting a baseball across the 60 feet that separate the mound from the plate is very impressive.
Now, we need to understand that the whole purpose of the opening pitch is to deliver a spectacle. This spectacle starts from the personality of the pitcher, to the quality of the pitch, to the antics that can possibly surround the pitch itself. This writer understands that there probably won’t ever be any consensus about how this top 10 should be done, but hopefully we can all agree that these pitches are impressive.
10 Bill Murray
I know what you’re thinking: Bill Murray’s opening pitch wasn’t that good. Well, technically no. He one-hopped it to the plate, but the entire spectacle that is Bill Murray trumps that. Albeit, this writer loved Caddie Shack and other cult classics, but I also like to think that the charisma and the energy that Bill Murray brought to Wrigley Field in April of 2012 was also worth something. That and the fact that Murray was able to show us all what base running should look like.
9 Buckets Blakes
Its good and great to step up to the mound and just throw the ball, but it’s another thing to do it with a good dose of humour. That’s just what Harlem Globetrotter Buckets Blakes did when he stepped on the mound in Philadelphia in the summer of 2011. The team had sent out the Phillie Phanatic out to catch the pitch, and the Phillies’ guest proceeded to fake out the mascot by throwing a ball that was tied to his hand with string. Much to the chagrin of the mascot, the crowd roared with laughter before the Globetrotter threw out a ceremonial basketball right in the strike zone. Tough day for the Phanatic indeed.
8 The Google Robot
In June 2013, the Oakland A’s decided to bring opening pitches into the 21st century. A robot was rolled to the mound that would imitate the movements of Nick LeGrande, who was all the way out in Kansas City. This 13-year-old boy had a potentially life-threatening blood disorder, and was effectively throwing out the first pitch in Oakland all the way from Kansas. The pitch may have been a bit short, but the feat was still very impressive in itself. We’ll chalk up the lack of power to a technical difficulty.
7 Christian Haupt
This three-year-old boy became the youngest person ever to throw out a pitch at a Major League Baseball game back in 2012 when he did just that at a Dodgers game. Of course, he two hops it to the plate. But there are three things to consider here. One: Christian was three at the time. Two: Christian is throwing from the mound. Three: Christian’s ball is on a direct line to the plate, something that lots of previous pitchers have failed to achieve! If my son can be this good when he gets to three, I like to think I’ll have done a good job.
6 Darth Vader
It’s become somewhat of a known fact that the Oakland A’s are big fans of booking novelty first pitchers. That’s just what they did in September 2011: Darth Vader was called upon with three storm troopers to throw out the first pitch. Now, Vader also one hopped it. But considering that he is mostly machine and that his vision is extremely restricted due to his helmet, a one hop isn't all that bad considering others couldn’t even get in the same time zone as the plate. Vader made his way onto this top 10 for that and just being awesome.
5 Will Ferrell & Zach Galifianakis
When promoting their 2012 film ‘’The Campaign’’ fellow comedians Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis stopped by Wrigley Field to throw out opening pitches. But with these two characters, that wasn’t enough. After Galifianakis threw out their first pitch (which was actually very good), they were interrupted when they had deep-dish pizza delivered to the mound. After scrambling to get the necessary funds, Ferrell threw out his pitch, which was also very impressive. For the stunt they pulled and for the quality of their pitches, you’ll understand why they made this top ten.
4 John Clayton
When ESPN analyst John Clayton was asked to throw out the first pitch at Safeco Field in 2013, he decided to push it to another level. Clayton put together an epic training video, in which he shows his detailed preparations for his moment in the sun. A one hopper is probably a questionable choice at number four, but Clayton’s effort to really deliver the whole entertainment package is what warranted him to slide in at this spot. It really is a thing of beauty, and words cannot describe just how incredible the video is. We’ll let you decide for yourselves.
3 Jeff Bauman & Carlos Arredondo
The Boston Marathon bombing back in 2013 shook Beantown to its core. But what was truly remarkable was the way in which the entire city got back on its feet. That was never more evident than back in May 2013, when Jeff Bauman and Carlos Arredondo, two marathon survivors, were asked to throw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game. Hailed as the heroes they are, both men stood on the mound and threw out their flawless pitches. Even more impressive was the fact that Bauman threw his from a wheelchair. For poise, for style and for the quality of their pitches, I think we can all agree that Jeff Bauman and Carlos Arredondo deserve a spot here.
2 Shin Soo-Ji
When Shin Soo-Ji stood at the mound before a Doosan Bears game back in July 2013, nobody really expected the Korean gymnast to pull off what she did. Contrary to other professional athletes or celebrities who came unprepared to the mound, Soo-Ji demonstrated her full range of abilities. A sort of standing cartwheel turned into a flawless pitch to the plate. Now some wouldn’t even be able to get the ball to the plate, period. But Shin Soo-Ji did it with panache and style. Take a gander.
1 Max Ashton
It’s very hard to describe what actually happened in game 4 of the 2011 NLDS between Arizona and Milwaukee. Max Ashton, a young man afflicted with blindness, was there to throw out the first pitch. Under any circumstances, throwing out a first pitch can be stressful, but imagine having to do it in total darkness without even being able to identify your target. Well Max overcame all those things, and threw a strike. We’ll let you be in awe of this feat for yourselves.