Skip to content

Olympians throwing ceremonial first pitches, a brief history

Apr 1, 2014, 10:53 AM EST

Olympic bronze medalist bobsledder Aja Evans sought advice before throwing out the first pitch on Opening Day at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago on Monday.

She knew just the person to ask — her uncle, retired MLB outfielder Gary Matthews – among others. The best advice?

“Aim high,” she said.

Evans got the job done, getting the ball over the plate before the White Sox-Twins game. Other Sochi Olympians were throwing out first pitches this week, including hockey silver medalists Brianna Decker and Jessie Vetter and skeleton bronze medalist Matt Antoine at Miller Park in Milwaukee on Monday.

Olympic ski slopestyle bronze medalist Nick Goepper is slated to throw out the first pitch at the Reds’ first night game Wednesday.

There have been some fabulous and, more memorable, forgettable first pitches by Olympians over time. It is common for Olympic stars to throw first pitches at MLB games shortly after the Summer or Winter Games finish.

The most notable is certainly nine-time Olympic track and field champion Carl Lewis, who has run the gamut in at least three ceremonial first pitches in MLB and NCAA baseball. He bounced the ball to home plate, airmailed another pitch and gave up entirely and sprinted from the pitcher’s mound, as detailed in this video post last year.

One must sympathize the most with artistic gymnasts, who are among the least trained Olympians when it comes to throwing a baseball 60 feet at a strike-zone target.

“Hopefully I’ll make it to the catcher,” 2008 Olympic champion Shawn Johnson once said.

She had trouble doing so at an Iowa Cubs game near her home in Des Moines, Iowa, in 2010, but was respectable when moving in front of the mound for a throw at Dodger Stadium in 2009.

Fierce Five gymnast Jordyn Wieber stepped in front of the mound and made it to home plate on one bounce at a Detroit Tigers game after the 2012 Olympics, doing so with a boot on her right foot due to stress fracture.

Three of Wieber’s teammates, Gabby DouglasMcKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross, threw simultaneous first pitches at Dodger Stadium in 2012. Maroney, the high-flying vault world champion, was the only one to do so from the pitching rubber and clearly had the strongest arm.

The multi-talented eight-time Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno showed a stellar windup and accuracy on this first pitch, also at Dodger Stadium.

Swimmer Jason Lezak looked calm and collected throwing a smooth, but not particularly fast, accurate strike in LA. Another swimmer, Jessica Hardy, risked throwing her pitch while wearing her two 2012 Olympic medals.

Ice dancing silver medalist Ben Agosto received a perfect score from the judges, according to the stadium announcer, for his first pitch at Safeco Field in 2012.

Even Yuna Kim has thrown out a first pitch, at a South Korean baseball game while wearing a “2018” jersey for the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Three-time Olympic basketball champion Diana Taurasi was just a bit outside on a throw at Chase Field.

“A little wild thing,” Taurasi said. “I wanted to throw it with a little heat.”

Then there are the quirky first pitches we saw out of South Korea last year — rhythmic gymnast Shin Soo-ji‘s whirligig pitch that has received more than 11 million YouTube views and 2012 gold medalist archer Ki Bo-bae, who made a mascot whiff with a bow-and-arrow pitch.

The 25 best MLB players to compete in the Olympics

Latest Posts
  1. Is Simone Biles unbeatable?

    Feb 26, 2015, 4:48 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    U.S. Olympic legend said yes. Top U.S. gymnast says no.

  2. Elana Meyers Taylor in line for history at bobsled World Championships

    Feb 26, 2015, 10:48 AM EST

    Elana Meyers Taylor Getty Images

    Meanwhile, the Olympic champion is well back in Winterberg.

  3. Bernard Lagat cancels farewell tour with Rio in mind

    Feb 25, 2015, 3:34 PM EST

    AP AP

    “Would I really slow down that much that I wouldn’t make the (Olympic) team? I don’t think so.”

  4. Duel in the Pool returns to U.S.

    Feb 25, 2015, 12:17 PM EST

    Duel in the Pool Getty Images

    The U.S. is undefeated in six editions of the Ryder Cup-style event.

  5. Rio Olympics could have multiple cauldrons

    Feb 25, 2015, 10:37 AM EST

    Pan American Games cauldron Getty Images

    The Opening and Closing ceremonies will be held at a venue separate from the Olympic Stadium for track and field.

  6. Former WNBA No. 1 draft pick switches from U.S. to Belarus

    Feb 24, 2015, 11:08 AM EST

    Lindsey Harding Getty Images

    The only NCAA Player of the Year winner since 1997 not to play for the U.S. at a Worlds or Olympics.

  7. U.S. cross-country skiers share historic podium at World Championships (video)

    Feb 24, 2015, 10:35 AM EST

    Jessie Diggins, Caitlin Gregg Getty Images

    Olympians nearly double the previous U.S. tally for World Championships medals.

  8. Behind the scenes of Miracle on Ice reunion

    Feb 24, 2015, 10:30 AM EST

    AP AP

    Inside the locker room with the players and more.

  9. Nastia Liukin adds to history of Olympians on ‘Dancing With the Stars’

    Feb 24, 2015, 9:32 AM EST

    Nastia Liukin Getty Images

    Liukin is the third U.S. Olympic champion gymnast to go on the show.

  10. Mikaela Shiffrin wins Maribor slalom, snags World Cup lead in teenage finale (video)

    Feb 22, 2015, 8:51 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Shiffrin won her 13th World Cup race as a teen, bettered by only one woman in history.

  11. Kyla Ross commits to UCLA

    Feb 22, 2015, 8:19 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Ross joins a long line of Olympic women’s gymnasts to choose UCLA.

  12. Michael Phelps gets engaged (photos)

    Feb 22, 2015, 8:06 AM EST

    Michael Phelps

    Phelps is expected to return to competition following his suspension in April.

  13. ‘Relive the Miracle’ reunion emotional for 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team

    Feb 21, 2015, 11:45 PM EST

    AP AP

    All living members joked and reminisced in the “Relive the Miracle” ceremony at Herb Brooks Arena.

  14. Mike Eruzione, Miracle teammates remember Bob Suter, recall 1980 memories

    Feb 21, 2015, 4:00 PM EST

    AP AP

    Look for more on the Miracle on Ice reunion on NBC’s Hockey Day in American coverage on Sunday at noon ET.

  15. Lindsey Vonn falls in Maribor giant slalom (video)

    Feb 21, 2015, 8:14 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Vonn “looked in pain and limped,” according to The Associated Press.

  16. How the Miracle on Ice reunion came together

    Feb 20, 2015, 12:39 PM EST

    Miracle on Ice AP

    All living members of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team will gather for just the third time in 35 years on Saturday, and the first time in Lake Placid.

  17. 1980 U.S. Olympic team members gather for ‘Relive the Miracle’ in Lake Placid

    Feb 20, 2015, 12:37 PM EST

    AP AP

    The event on Saturday night will be bittersweet, Mike Eruzione said.

  18. Sarah Hendrickson sixth at ski jumping World Championships

    Feb 20, 2015, 12:31 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Hendrickson was defending her 2013 title, following her August 2013 crash and Sochi Olympic comeback.

  19. Holley Mangold gets Olympic rings tattoo on her head

    Feb 20, 2015, 11:10 AM EST

    Holley Mangold

    London Olympian is one of the top U.S. weightlifters.