One of the neatest things baseball teams do is the “ceremonial first pitch,” often honoring past stars or community leaders. One of the highest honors someone can receive is to be asked to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day. Here is a run-down of some of yesterday’s ceremonial first pitch honorees:
Lou Piniella took the mound before the Yankees-Red Sox game.
Rusty Staub tossed the ball before the Mets opener.
Former big leaguer Joe Torre was asked to throw the first pitch before the Reds-Angels game. This one doesn’t make any sense to me since Torre has no connection to either organization.
Brandon Webb was honored by the Diamondbacks.
Bo knows first pitches…Bo Jackson did not wear a jersey when he threw out the first pitch before the White Sox-Royals game in Chicago.
Medal of Honor recipient Army Staff Sgt. Clint Romesha was the Nationals’ choice to throw the first pitch in Washington.
Future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones returned to the field in Atlanta.
If the season ended today, who would get your votes for the annual awards in the National League? That’s the question Baseball Happenings is asking each week, rotating between the American and National League. Here are my picks after two weeks of play:
National League MVP
1. Justin Upton – This was a tough call, still early in the season, but Upton gets the nod for the combination of 5 HRs and 11 RBI, along with a .400 average. As the season progresses, I’m sure this will get easier as some players will set themselves apart.
2. Pat Burrell – 3 of his 4 round-trippers and more than half of his RBI have come against Cincinnati (the Phils would love to play them all year).
3. Mark Reynolds – He has as many HRs and more RBI than his teammate Upton, but his average is 100 points lower.
National League Cy Young
1. Ben Sheets – Only 3 earned runs in 3 starts, a 2-0 record and 20 Ks. If Sheets keeps this up, there won’t be any competition for this award.
2. Johnny Cueto – He got hit harder on Sunday and took the loss, but his 24 strikeouts lead the league. He was nearly unhittable in his first 2 starts, but didn’t get the run support from the Reds and had to settle for a non-decision in one of those games.
3. Brandon Webb – Webb or Peavy…Webb or Peavy…Both are 3-0, both have about the same number of strikeouts, earned runs, hits allowed. It’s really a toss-up on this one, and Webb landed heads-up.
National League Rookie of the Year
1. Johnny Cueto – The guy stole Homer Bailey’s thunder during spring training, and is stealing the hearts of Reds fans in Cincinnati.
2. Kosuke Fukudome – His 9th inning home run in the Cubs’ opener put him as the early front-runner, but he has slowed down a bit since then. He’s batting .333 with 9 walks, but has also struck out 7 times.
3. Geovany Soto – One of three NL rookies with 2 home runs, he also has 8 RBI, 3 doubles and a triple. Plus he’s a catcher and has thrown out 3 of 11 potential base stealers.