Prior preparation. It prevents poor pitch performance — perhaps.
In this case it only has to work once, or at least not harm anyone’s nose, lens or reputation. Mina Kimes, ESPN NFL analyst and Seattle sports follower, is set to throw the ceremonial first pitch Friday as the Mariners return home after a 6-3 road trip to host the Boston Red Sox.
“I cover football, but the Mariners were my childhood love, like a lot of kids my age,” Kimes, 36, said. “It really is a bucket-list item that I didn’t think could be on my bucket list, because it’s such a far-fetched premise.
“Honestly, just being there, being surrounded by fans and the team that I rooted for for so long, having my family there, being back in a city that I have so many precious memories of. … I think it’s probably going to feel like a dream.”
She discussed the surprise invitation with the Mariners organization during spring training and said yes which was “immediately followed by sheer terror.” Kimes, who joined ESPN The Magazine in 2014 and was named an NFL analyst in 2020, played softball before high school but gravitated toward soccer.
“Haven’t thrown a ball in 20-plus years,” she said.
Kimes estimated she’ll have six practice sessions under her belt by the time she warms up at T-Mobile Park. Her husband, who played baseball growing up, consulted as she worked on using her core and getting the feet right.
There’s also been some consideration of worst-case scenarios, from mild (short-arming it) to severe (taking out a photographer).
“I’m not going to lie, I don’t want to screw up royally,” Kimes said. “Although I have gotten better with practice, I would say one out of every 10 of my practice throws does fly pretty errantly.
“It’s a little bit like Russian roulette with me out there. It could go horribly wrong.”
On the ESPN Daily podcast, author and longtime pitching coach Tom House offered his insights on a video of Kimes’ practice session. He’s worked with everyone from Randy Johnson to Tom Brady, but this was his first consultation on a first pitch.
“I’m kind of more nervous than she is,” House said. “If she just practices a bit based on what we talked about, she’ll be fine.”
House, who finished his major league career with the Mariners (1977-78), said women tend to get “squishy” with their elbows and wind up pushing the ball. Kimes avoided that common mistake.
“The bottom line is her arm works,” House said. “Your back foot — ‘ankle eye’ — has to be square to the target. That’s all she needed to do. Everything else she was doing was pretty good.
“She’s got everything to gain and nothing to lose. If it’s horribly bad, it’ll be seen on ESPN. If it’s really good, she’ll feel good and no one will care.”
Los Angeles-based Kimes said she’ll be back at T-Mobile Park for the first time since the pandemic began. Friends and extended family in the Seattle area will also attend — phones potentially out, thumbs hovering over the video record button.
“It’s pretty exciting for me, even if they have to see something pretty embarrassing,” she said.
Kimes’ father is a Seattle native and the inherited sports allegiances come up from time to time.
“I think it’s a team that maybe doesn’t receive the kind of national representation of some of the bigger market teams,” Kimes said of the Mariners.
“It’s an honor to bring more attention to Seattle teams in general, since I follow them so closely.”