Skip to content

Olympians throwing ceremonial first pitches, a brief history

Apr 1, 2014, 10:53 AM EDT

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. U.S. flag bearer Kendall Yount wins Youth Olympic gold

    Aug 21, 2014, 6:08 PM EDT

    Kendall Yount Getty Images

    A U.S. Summer Olympic Opening Ceremony flag bearer hasn’t won individual Olympic gold since 1960.

  2. Sam Mikulak leads one of most decorated P&G Championships fields ever

    Aug 21, 2014, 5:01 PM EDT

    Sam Mikulak AP

    Four past U.S. all-around champions are in the field in Pittsburgh.

  3. Allyson Felix beats Tori Bowie in Stockholm

    Aug 21, 2014, 4:01 PM EDT

    Allyson Felix Getty Images

    Also, a rare defeat for Olympic pole vault champion.

  4. Gabby Douglas plans on fall training camp, 2015 Secret Classic

    Aug 21, 2014, 2:44 PM EDT

    Gabby Douglas Getty Images

    Olympic all-around champion says she’ll stay in Columbus through 2016 Olympics.

  5. Katie Ledecky wins 2 Pan Pacs titles; Missy Franklin places 3rd

    Aug 21, 2014, 11:26 AM EDT

    Katie Ledecky AP

    Ledecky nearly broke another world record.

  6. Frenchman wins Youth Olympics dunk contest gold medal

    Aug 21, 2014, 9:53 AM EDT

    Basketball

    NBA legends channeled; Olympic silver medalist on judging panel.

  7. Youth Olympics shooter oversleeps, misses chance at medal

    Aug 21, 2014, 7:49 AM EDT

    Youth Olympics Pistol Getty Images

    Ukrainian’s error costs Moldovan teammate a shot at the podium.

  8. Missy Franklin overcomes back injury to qualify for Pan Pacs final

    Aug 20, 2014, 11:59 PM EDT

    Missy Franklin Getty Images

    U.S. star first suffered back spasms at Tuesday practice.

  9. Simone Biles a tall favorite at P&G Championships; women’s preview

    Aug 20, 2014, 5:44 PM EDT

    Simone Biles Getty Images

    Defending champion feels no added pressure despite seeing her face all around Pittsburgh.

  10. Jennie Finch, Lisa Fernandez weigh in on Mo’ne Davis

    Aug 20, 2014, 3:56 PM EDT

    Jennie Finch Getty Images

    Would Davis excel in softball if she tried it?

  11. France, Australia win first Youth Olympic rugby titles

    Aug 20, 2014, 9:23 AM EDT

    Rugby Getty Images

    First medals awarded on an Olympic stage in rugby since 1924.

  12. London Olympian wins historic bronze at Youth Olympics (video)

    Aug 20, 2014, 8:46 AM EDT

    Lily Zhang Getty Images

    Lily Zhang scored a breakthrough for U.S. table tennis.

  13. U.S. Youth Olympic swimmers teammates now, college roommates later (video)

    Aug 20, 2014, 8:28 AM EDT

    Hannah Moore Getty Images

    Gold medalists Hannah Moore and Clara Smiddy will go from Nanjing to Ann Arbor.

  14. Pan Pacific Championships men’s events preview

    Aug 20, 2014, 8:04 AM EDT

    Nathan Adrian, James Magnussen Getty Images

    U.S. vs. Australia in sprint head to head; outlook for Phelps and Lochte.

  15. Michael Phelps scratches first two events of Pan Pacs

    Aug 20, 2014, 5:34 AM EDT

    Michael Phelps Getty Images

    Phelps’ debut in Australia pushed back to Friday.