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!
Seriously, make sure you get here early for the pregame festivities. They will include a special video tribute to someone special in the Giants family, the national anthem performed by Matt Nathanson (and he sounded GOOD in the pregame sound check) and the first pitch thrown by 49ers legend Jerry Rice (he let the cat out of the bag himself this morning on Twitter, of all things).
There will also be the traditional Opening Day flyover, from the VX-9 Vampires out of China Lake-Point Magu, and the first 40,000 fans get Opening Day calendars.