Caron's First Pitch, Take Two [UPDATED]
"I'm not doing it for the media attention, I'm doing it for my own inner confidence," Caron Butler said earlier this spring, concerning his attempt at first-pitch redemption. "Brother, I ain't been right since that damn pitch. I've got to go back and find myself."
If you recall, two summers ago at RFK, Butler bounced his ceremonial first pitch toward the plate. Rolled, maybe. It would have been an appropriate way to start a game of lawn bowling, but it left something to be desired on a baseball diamond. Fans booed. You don't boo Caron Butler in D.C.
So since then, he's promised he would one day fix that mistake. Today, it finally happened, in front of the early parts of an afternoon crowd.
"I think they've really been sitting back waiting for me to come back here so they can make fun of me," Caron said of the early arrivers. "Y'all got me nervous....My wife and my cousin had it on YouTube this morning when I came down on the big computer. The second I come downstairs they got me on there, just throwing the ball like that, laughing at me."
Block that out. There's some sort of saying about those who forget the past being condemned to repeat it, but there's another school of thought that says botched ceremonial pitches are best forgotten.
"I kind of erased everything from the past and I'm looking forward to the future, so I'm just gonna think about happy thoughts for today," his wife, Andrea said. "He's been practicing, so I'm just gonna try to send him good vibes to make sure he does well."
Indeed, Caron spent part of Sunday practicing his delivery with both his five-year old daughter, his wife and his brother. He got more work in today with ABC's Tim Brant, who actually did great work on the forward's arm motion. Then he closed his final practice session by intentionally bouncing an effort toward the visiting dugout.
"We ain't having that today," he promised a crowd of onlookers. "We're not having that today."
(By the way, the Nats' record on the days Caps win playoff games this spring is 4-2. The Nats' record on all other days is 2-15. Maybe Caron should drop a ceremonial puck next time, just to nab some of that leftover karma.)
After a tour of the clubhouse and a visit to the batting cages--"you watching this clinic?" Adam Dunn asked him--Butler was introduced to the crowd. "A true fixture in the D.C. community," the PA guy said, as Caron juggled the ball and stretched his arms from the mound. Then it was time.
He got set, wound up, and flung the ball toward Jesus Flores. Strike one. The hat went flying into the air. The arms waved. He turned his hat sideways, shimmied off the mound, whooping his way off. All that was missing was a flying bear hug from Yogi Berra.
"That felt unbelievable, just to be working hard for the last couple of years, and to get out there and throw a perfect pitch," he said. "That's swag right there, all swag right there. I was trying to tune everybody out and just throw a good pitch."
Was he ready for middle relief?
"If they need me I'm ready man," he said. "I'm gonna stay over here, stay warm, keep my shoulder warmed up, put a heat pack on it and if they need me I'll be ready."
(Note: Maybe in the ninth? Can't get much worse.)
And what did he think when ball hit mitt?
"What did I think?" he repeated. "Job well done, Mr. Butler."
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