25 Jul The Ceremonial First Pitch
by BairFind Executive Director Ellen Sullivan
The ceremonial first pitch is a longstanding tradition in American baseball. An honored guest throws out a ball “or pitch”. The first pitch signals the end of any pregame activities that may be underway and starts the beginning of the ball game.
In 1910, President William Taft started the American tradition on the Washington Senators’ Opening Day. Every American President since that time has thrown out a ceremonial first pitch. Other ceremonial throwers are typically dignitaries, celebrities or a former player, etc., or an executive from a company that sponsors the team, or perhaps someone who was awarded an opportunity as a contest prize. Recently, men and women who have served in the military are also included.
When the first pitch ceremony began, the honored guest would throw the ball from where they were sitting in the stands. The tradition changed when Ronald Reagan threw the first pitch during an unscheduled visit to a Baltimore Orioles game. Today the guest stands in front of the pitcher’s mound and throws towards the home plate. In some cases, the honored guest may sometimes stand on the mound just as a pitcher would. The recipient of the pitch is usually a player from the home team.
The BairFind Foundation in cooperation with owners of the minor league stadiums have incorporated the ceremonial first pitch into its program to support families. The tradition began when BairFind founder Dennis Bair accompanied Nancy Ruiz and relatives in 2010 for a ceremonial first pitch at a Williamsport Crosscutters game. Nancy’s daughter Gina had gone missing in Cleveland on April 2, 2004. Dennis invited Nancy to attend games in Cleveland, Akron and Williamsport with him to throw out the first pitch while a photo was displayed on the screen. This helped to keep her daughter’s profile out in public.
Today the BairFind Foundation continues its ceremonial first pitch tradition as a cornerstone to support families of missing children and to keep the profiles out in public. With more eyes looking, more children have a chance of being found.