The last time Wizards guard John Wall threw out a ceremonial first pitch at Nationals Park, back in 2011, things, uh, didn’t go so well.
Wall wound up and spiked the ball so short of home plate that it didn’t even reach the dirt, forcing Drew Storen, who was behind the dish awaiting Wall’s toss, to lunge to his right to snag the ball before it got by him. If you haven’t seen the video, here it is.
Tonight, Wall returns to the scene of the crime. He’ll throw out the ceremonial first pitch again before tonight’s White Sox-Nationals game and will hope for better results his second time between the lines at Nats Park. So will the guys in the home dugout.
“See if we’ve got any room for improvement,” said Storen, when asked if he would catch Wall’s first pitch again. “Or maybe he needs to throw to somebody else. I don’t know. I’m going to have to warm up again if I do.”
The Wizards’ Twitter account quotes Wall as saying that he’s going to “just lob it” tonight, which might not be an awful strategy if he’s hoping to avoid SportsCenter’s Not Top 10 Plays for the week.
“I guess the lob, you’ve got to swallow your pride a little bit,” Ryan Zimmerman said with a smile. “It’s almost like the grandma shot in basketball. I would hope he does a little bit better this time.”
Storen remembers his discussion with Wall before that first-pitch two years ago.
“I asked him, ‘Hey, man, have you played baseball before?’” Storen said. “He was like, ‘Yeah.’”
Recalling the interaction, Storen then smiled and gave reporters an exaggerated eye-roll.
“I’m like, ‘Oh, OK, perfect,’” Storen said.
Storen jokes about Wall’s first pitch, but he knows first-hand how tough it can actually be for someone to step out there in front of tens ofthousands of fans and deliver a strike under pressure. The day that he signed with the Nats in 2009, Storen came to Nats Park and threw out the first pitch. The guy had just gotten drafted in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft as a pitcher, and he was still nervous.
“Being on both sides of those, those are extremely hard to do,” Storen said. “When I threw mine out here, I was really domed up about it, because it’s a tough throw to make. And catching it is equally hard, because you literally have no idea what kind of skill set somebody has.
“I know when I threw mine out, I definitely didn’t go up on the mound. I was like, ‘I’m just going in front. Doing that.’ Because it’s tough. ... It’s just an awkward thing. It’s just not easy to do. Because you’re not going to go out there and go like this (goes into a full windup). Don’t do that. And I was in a suit. Haven’t really pitched very much in a button-up.”
What advice would Storen have for Wall tonight?
“Scoot up and just tap it in,” Storen said. “Just tap-tap-a-roo. Give me a sky hook. That might be the good way to go.”
Update: Gio Gonzalez was behind the plate for Wall’s first pitch tonight, and the results were much better than Wall’s last time here two years ago.
Wall definitely took something off this toss, lobbing it in to Gonzalez, but at least he got it to the plate this time. The ball was a bit high, but Wall didn’t miss the zone by much.
No embarrassing YouTube clips will come out of Wall’s trip to Nats Park this time.