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Triple-amputee veteran throws first pitch at Rays' game

His friends were tying tourniquets on what remained of his arms and legs when Sgt. Michael Nicholson came to.

Nicholson, 22, was serving in Afghanistan in July 2011 when he stepped on a hidden explosive that took his left arm and both of his legs.

He was medically discharged from the Marines this month. After more than 30 surgeries and rehabilitation at a naval hospital in Bethesda, Md., he moved back to his parents' Tampa home in March.

A lifelong Rays fan, Nicholson handled some special duties Monday night as the Rays took on the Yankees. Fitted with prosthetics, he threw out a first pitch.

Nicholson practiced his pitching technique Monday morning in preparation for the game. "I haven't lost my throwing arm so that's good," Nicholson said. "I'm looking to throw a solid pitch down the plate."

He had some company on the mound, too. Newly signed Bucs cornerback Darrelle Revis threw out the "first" first pitch. Nicholson threw the second, accompanied by George Siller, vice chair of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

Created in the name of Siller's brother, a fallen 9/11 firefighter, the Tunnel to Towers Foundation builds homes adapted for seriously wounded U.S. veterans. The foundation is partnering with the Gary Sinise Foundation to build Nicholson a Smart Home in South Tampa. The home will include features to accommodate Nicholson, such as wide doorways and counters that move at the push of a button.

A groundbreaking ceremony on May 9 will kick off the construction of Nicholson's Smart Home. The project should be completed by October, Siller said.

Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band will play a benefit concert May 10 in efforts to raise money for the project.

"The support from local areas is what makes the difference," Siller said.

After a morning of pitching practice with Nicholson, Siller was confident in the Marine's pitching skills.

"He's got a good arm," Siller said. "If he was able to go out into the field and face combat, then he'll be able to throw a first pitch."

To buy tickets for the benefit concert or to donate, visit supportmikenicholson.com.

Jessica Floum can be reached at jfloum@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8340

Triple-amputee veteran throws first pitch at Rays' game 04/22/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 8:09am]
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