Ring of Honor World champion Jay Lethal is usually a confident man. But not last Friday, when he was selected to throw out the first pitch at the Chicago White Sox game at U.S. Cellular Field.
With ROH in nearby Chicago Ridge for its Global Wars pay-per-view, it was arranged for Lethal to do the honours on Friday afternoon, as the ChiSox took on the Minnesota Twins.
On Wednesday, while in Toronto for a ROH TV taping, Lethal admitted that he was out of his depth.
“It was kind of scary, because I had watched so many videos of so many horrible first pitch throws that when I stepped to the mound, my heart was pounding — more so than any match that I’ve ever had before in my life! Because I’m stepping out of my element,” said Lethal. “I’m not a baseball player. I’ve never even played catch with my friends because I’m not that good at throwing baseballs and catching them.”
Lethal grew up in New Jersey as Jamar “Jay” Shipman, but wasn’t a baseball fan. It wasn’t until he moved to Tampa, Florida, about seven years ago that he started to get into the game. “When I moved, I went to a couple of games, and I became a fan of the Rays. But I don’t consider myself to be a big baseball fan. So that also had me a little bit nervous too, the fact that I wasn’t a big baseball fan, but man, it was so cool.”
The White Sox staff treated him like a champ.
“They went above and beyond the call of duty of making me feel at home. It was so cool. They took me all throughout the stadium, a lot of history about the stadium,” he said. Lethal got to pose in a conference room and do a number of interviews.
What he didn’t get to do was hang out with any current White Sox to find out if they were wrestling fans (like former White Sox player A.J. Pierzynski, who got involved with TNA). He did see a couple of players signing autographs for fans, which got him thinking. “No one was asking for my autograph right away, and I was thinking, ‘Oh, this is not my element.’ Then there was a large group of people that had printed out their own Jay Lethal pictures at home, and they were asking for my autograph. I was like, ‘Oh, now I feel like I fit in here. This is awesome.'”
He also gave some thought to whether he’d be booed or quiet when he headed to the mound. In the end, the team told him they’d be playing his music, so it didn’t matter. “Making an entrance, that I’m used to. That part, I was 100% confident in my abilities,” said Lethal. “But then once I had to turn and throw the pitch, I was like, ‘Oh, no, I don’t want this to end up ESPN’s SportsCenter, where they just run me into the ground. I’ve got to hold up my end of the deal. I’m the Ring of Honor World champion. I can’t look bad here!'”
It was a decent pitch, even if he won’t be challenging Jose Quintana or Chris Sale for a spot on the Sox pitching staff.
“Looking back on it, I was like, ‘This is big stuff. This is a thing that celebrities do.’ It’s hard to consider myself or look at myself like a celebrity. I just think that I’m just me. It was like, ‘Gosh, I can’t believe I’m getting to do this.'”
Jay Lethal will be a part of the Ring of Honor War of The Worlds Tour on Saturday in New York City. He’s on the card, Adam Cole & Matt Jackson vs. Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii vs. Jay Lethal & Roderick Strong.
Greg Oliver can say that he’s been to U.S. Cellular Field at least. He did not throw out the first pitch. In fact, he and his son nearly froze at a game in June, even with the extra blanket they took from their hotel to stay warm. Email Greg at [email protected], and you can follow him on Twitter @gregmep.