Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Why the secretary of the Navy is an expert on first pitches

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.


Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.

Ray Mabus, the secretary of the Navy since 2009, began throwing out first pitches to bring attention to the Navy and the Marine Corps. Now he is thought to be the only person to have thrown one at all 30 major-league ballparks. Mabus has long had an interest in baseball. The governor of Mississippi from 1988 to 1992 and later the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, he grew up rooting for the St. Louis Cardinals. The interview has been edited and condensed.

Q: How did you start throwing out first pitches?

A: I was in St. Louis for the dedication of the USS St. Louis, and the Cardinals said, "Come over and name it at the game and throw out the first pitch." So I went out there on the field, and 45,000 people stood up and cheered. We thought, "This is a good way to put a face on the Navy and connect with the American people," so I started doing it when I dedicated a ship or submarine, or when there were swearing-in ceremonies for service members on the field before games.

Do you practice before you go out on the field?

Most stadiums have a place under the stands that's marked off, and you can see how long it is. A few times, I've gone down the third- or first-base line. One time, I went to the bullpen. But it's a waste, as I've learned that whether I warm up or not, it doesn't have much impact.

Your advice to first-timers?

I've learned three things: Don't go on to the mound — throw from in front of it. Throw high: At my age, I ain't going to overthrow anyone. And third, nobody comes to see the first pitch, so no matter how badly you do, nobody will hold it against you.

Why not go up on the mound?

You are not used to it; nobody is used to it unless you're a pitcher. Throwing down from it is very hard, and you're surely going to one-hop it.

Should they use a big windup?

Pitch from the stretch, and throw the ball overhand, not sidearm. Don't come in with this big windup, because who knows where the ball will go?

It seems like there's a first-pitch industrial complex, and there's now more first pitches.

Sometimes, I'm one of four or five. A 7-year-old will go out on the mound and blaze one right in, and then they call on you to go out there.

What type of player do you typically throw to?

I'm usually throwing to someone who is not playing that day. They're not going to chance it with someone important, especially a pitcher. It's usually a backup catcher, and occasionally, it's someone who is pretty famous, and you go, "Oh."

Do you get to meet the other players on the team?

I've met Big Papi (Red Sox slugger David Ortiz) now three or four times, and every time, I'm like, "Wow."

How many first pitches had you thrown before you were secretary?

About 10.

I can see why a team in the U.S. would be more than happy to have you throw out the pitch. But how did you get to do it in Toronto?

The Canadian chief naval officer had seen me threw out the first pitch in Detroit, and he said, "Come up to Toronto, and we'll do simultaneous first pitches to show our partnership." So instead of going to Ottawa, I went to Toronto, and we did our usual meeting and then did it together.

Is doing it simultaneously harder?

There's a lot more room for comparison.

Most politicians are booed when they are announced at sporting events. Are you?

As governor, I would get booed. ... But in this job I don't get booed and I get a nice reception. That's not because of me; it's because of the job and that I'm representing the Navy and Marines. Nobody is going to boo me in the off chance that they'll think they're booing the sailors and Marines.

Do you still get excited?

I've been going to baseball games my whole life, but when you walk through the tunnel and come out the dugout, it's just a different experience.

The Navy has a ship named the USS Cooperstown to commemorate the 10 percent of Hall of Famers who are veterans. Won't that percentage get smaller as time goes on because so few players today have served?

Today, less than 1 percent of the country wears the uniform. We have to work harder at making the connection because it's dangerous in a democracy when there's too much distance between those who are doing the protecting and those who are protected.

Why the secretary of the Navy is an expert on first pitches 07/18/16 [Last modified: Monday, July 18, 2016 9:37pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, New York Times.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Video: Gordon Hayward's message to Celtics from hospital bed after gruesome injury


    BOSTON — Gordon Hayward's face was etched in pain and shock.

    Gordon Hayward of the Boston Celtics sits on the floor after being injured while playing the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on October 17, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. [Gregory Shamus | Getty Images]
  2. Rick and Tom podcast: Where does Winston rank among top QBs?


    Where does Bucs QB Jameis Winston rank among current NFL QBs this year? The result might shock you. Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down a new poll by Sports Illustrated in their latest podcast.

    Where does Jameis Winston rank among the NFL's top quarterbacks?
  3. Epilogue: USF's Mike Radomski made thank-yous a way of life


    TAMPA — He was a sucker for baseball and benevolence. Mike Radomski tracked every gesture, regardless of how noble or benign, as meticulously as pitch counts in his volumes of scorebooks.

    Assistant director of communications Mike Radomski, who primarily served as the media liaison for men's basketball but also worked with several other Bulls sports, died shortly after 1 a.m. Oct. 12, 2017 in a car accident on Interstate 75 near his Wildwood home. He was 29. PHOTO PROVIDED.
  4. Cubs down Dodgers 3-2; force NLCS Game 5 Thursday


    CHICAGO — Javier Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, former Ray Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and the Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

  5. Bucs' Vernon Hargreaves: 'I'm not making any plays'


    TAMPA — Eli Manning gathered his receivers together on the sideline during the Giants' Week 4 game against the Bucs and told them he planned to target the weakest link of the secondary all afternoon.

    Patriots receiver Chris Hogan gets position in front of Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves for a 5-yard touchdown pass in New England’s win on Oct. 5.