It was LifeWay Night at our local minor league baseball stadium. We had an outdoor party for LifeWay employees and were given a discounted ticket price for the game. One of the other perks was that LifeWay could have someone representing the company throw out the first pitch.
Fate picked me.
Maybe it was because a lot of the old timers around here know I have a baseball past and it was hoped that I, at least, wouldn’t embarrass the company with a wimpy first pitch that bounced to the catcher. When asked, I gladly said, “Sure. I’d be happy to.” I thought to myself, “I’m going to blow their minds.”
Life is a cruel thing.
In my mind I know it’s been thirty-five years since I pitched for Delta State University. Yeah – that’s right, pitched. But, in my soul, I was actually wondering if the Sounds (our team) would rather me go ahead and throw the first couple of innings because, after all, I’m sure I still could.
I decided to wear a Delta State baseball practice jersey given to me by my friend, former classmate, and current DSU baseball supporter, Alan Berry. After all, if someone was curious about my baseball pedigree, I wanted to let them know in a subtle way, I had game.
The time came for me to meet the team representative and go on to the field for the pitch. They gave me the ball and introduced me to the player that would be catching. The PA announcer introduced me and the team assistant told me to take the field.
“You can stand anywhere you would like. You don’t have to go all the way to the mound. You can just stand a few feet away,” she said. “Ha!” I thought. “I’m a pitcher – I’m going to the mound.”
The catcher also took the field but did something I wasn’t prepared for – he actually got in a catcher’s stance and gave me a legit target. I had assumed until then he would just stand up and let me toss it to him.
I can’t really explain what happened next when I turned around and saw him in the catcher stance. Something in my psyche lost track of the thirty-five years that had passed since I last pitched a college game. In a split second, I decided to go big.
Some observers later characterized the pitch by saying, “You bounced it,” which is a big no-no for first pitches. I prefer to say, “I threw a low, hard, two-seam fastball outside of the strike-zone. It was my out pitch.”
Next time I hope they ask me to sing the anthem.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.