In honor of the Sharks’ Game 1 victory over the Red Wings last night, here’s a look back at Dany Heatley throwing out the first pitch at Monday’s Giants game at AT&T Park.
Heatley came to the yard with teammates Ryane Clowe, Jay Leach and Niclas Wallin to take in a game during their four-day break from the Stanley Cup playoffs. Heatley’s said before that he would love to take batting practice, but because of the scheduling, that wasn’t possible. Instead, the Giants arranged for him to join the previously scheduled Boys & Girls Club California Youth of the Year, Winnie Phan, in throwing out the first pitch.
Heatley, Clowe and Leach waited near the Giants dugout before the game (Wallin headed to his seat pretty quickly), indulging media requests for photos and interviews. He said despite not being raised in the United States, he’s still a fan of the American national pastime.
“I’m from Canada , but I’ve been in the States a lot,” said Heatley, who attended the Giants’ home opener along with some of his teammates. “I love watching games and love being at the park.”
Heatley even revealed that he’d been to a Giants game a very long time ago, when his family was visiting California and took in a game at the Giants’ old home, Candlestick Park.
As he waited before Monday’s game, rocking a Giants sweatshirt and cap, you could see he was getting a little nervous about the task that awaited him. At one point, he asked if someone could get him a ball and a place to warm up, and he went down to the Giants batting-cage tunnel to practice for a bit.
Giants special assistant J.T. Snow dropped by to chat and pose for pictures with the Sharks players, and Heatley hung out with Barry Zito (someone told me they were already acquainted), who would be catching Heatley’s first pitch.
After pulling on his Sharks jersey (or sweater, in hockey parlance), Heatley took the field with Winnie, and while the 17-year-old rainbowed her toss into Sergio Romo‘s glove, Heatley fired the baseball version of a slapshot at Zito. Except his fastball came up a few feet short, and Zito had to make a nifty grab of the one-hopper.
Heatley took a lot of grief for getting outpitched by a 17-year-old (ESPN even interviewed Winnie), both when Clowe visited Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper in the broadcast booth during the game and later from his teammates. But he said he definitely enjoyed the experience and is still looking forward to the chance to take batting practice someday.
And any embarrassment over his first-pitch performance sure didn’t carry over to his play on the ice: He scored his first goal of the playoffs in the Sharks’ 4-3 victory over the Red Wings three days later.
NOTE: I’ve set up a Twitter account for updates and photos of ballpark happenings. Follow @ThirdAndKing on Twitter for all the fun!
As I drove to the ballpark today, it was almost weird not to see lines stretching all around the place, as they were for Wearable Blanket Night on Friday and Pablo Sandoval Bobblehead Night yesterday. But as I turned onto Third Street around 9:30 a.m., bam, there was a line extending from the Lefty O’Doul Gate past the Dugout Store.
Turns out it was the queue for Pony League Day, one of the many special events held in conjunction with Giants games throughout the season. Hundreds of youth baseball players and their coaches packed into a seating section along the first-base side and got a special presentation hosted by Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper.
Participants got to ask questions and hear from Giants third-base coach Tim Flannery, catcher Eli Whiteside, outfielder John Bowker and left-hander Barry Zito, fresh off his dazzling eight-inning, 10-strikeout victory from the night before. Check out the video below for some of Zito’s answers from the session:
Catching up on a busy week at AT&T Park as the Giants prepare to celebrate Independence Day with the series opener vs. the Dodgers:
The Giants got a jump on this weekend’s salute to military veterans with their own Military Appreciation Night on Wednesday. Hundreds of military personnel and their friends and family were able to attend either with the Giants’ special ticket package or with the more than 400 tickets donated by season ticket holders.
Servicemen and women and volunteers from Operation: Care and Comfort were stationed at the gates to collect donations for care packages. Fans could also take the opportunity to write a letter to a member of the military, like the family below (one son is showing off where he signed the letter written by Mom; the other is getting a high-five from an OCC volunteer).
Barry Zito‘s Strikeouts for Troops program was honored before the game, and Army veteran Willie Mays received a plaque in recognition of his service. The Giants wore the special blue stars-and-stripes caps that all teams are wearing over the Fourth of July weekend in support of MLB’s Welcome Back Veterans program, and the night capped with a fireworks show.
Speaking of honors, my colleague Chris Haft wrote a nice story about how former Giants catcher Bob Brenly appreciated being included in the Giants’ tribute to the ’80s featured on the left-field wall as part of the team’s 50th Anniversary celebration. Here’s the full wall (I could only use a portion of the photo in the story itself):
One fun note: On Monday, when I arrived at the park around 3 p.m., I saw a bunch of fans get a surprise as they waited by the visiting players’ entrance for autographs or milled around Willie Mays Plaza — jogging by were pitchers Jonathan Sanchez and Merkin Valdez, getting in a little workout with a lap around the outside of the ballpark.
As if the annual Bay Bridge Series weren’t enough reason to come to the ballpark this weekend …
Based on the clues on the 50th Anniversary page, I can say without a doubt that the Forever Giants Fridays guest will be beloved third baseman Matt Williams. He’ll also be at the ballpark on Saturday for the first of the three big 50th Anniversary reunions, this one for Giants infielders from the past 50 years. Some of the others scheduled to attend (subject to change, of course):
Joe Amalfitano, Dave Bergman, Ernie Bowman, Ed Bressoud, Orlando Cepeda, Jim Davenport, Shawon Dunston, Darrell Evans, Tito Fuentes, David Green, Ron Hunt, Duane Kuiper, Johnnie LeMaster, Greg Litton, Bill Madlock, Willie McCovey, Willie Montanez, Rich Murray, John Patterson, Marty Perez, Mike Phillips, Ken Reitz, Steve Scarsone, J.T. Snow, Daryl Spencer, Joe Strain, Derrel Thomas and Scot Thompson.
Before Saturday’s game, the A’s and Giants wives will face off in their annual softball game, always an entertaining event. And the first 20,000 fans will get a neat 50th Anniversary bandana.
Sunday’s giveaway is a good-looking Giants water bottle, in honor of CHW’s annual Make Time for Fitness Day. One of the many cool things about AT&T Park is that there’s an official CHW walking course there. It’s a good workout in a beautiful setting, so there’s another good reason to get to the park early.