In Chicago, Riccardo Muti threw out the “First Pitch” as a guest of honor.

The ceremonial first pitch is a longstanding ritual of baseball in which a guest of honor throws a ball to mark the end of pregame festivities and the start of the game. The ceremonial thrower may be a notable person (dignitary, celebrity, former player, etc.) who is in attendance, an executive from a company that sponsors the team (especially when that company has sponsored that night’s promotional giveaway), or a person who won the first pitch opportunity as a contest prize.  President William Howard Taft started the American tradition of Presidential first pitches in 1910 at Griffith Stadium, Washington, D.C.. Every President from Taft to Obama has thrown out at least one ceremonial first ball or pitch, either for Opening Day, the All-Star Game, or the World Series.

Originally, the guest threw a ball from his/her place in the grandstand to the pitcher or catcher of the home team, but the ritual changed after President Ronald Reagan threw the first pitch on the field at an unscheduled appearance at a Baltimore Orioles game. Now, the guest stands in front of the pitcher’s mound and throws towards home plate. He or she may also sometimes stand on the mound (as a pitcher would). The recipient of the pitch is usually a player from the home team.

Riccardo Muti recalls the emotion of his First Pitch in 2012:

“[…] I was very nervous because of course if you make a disaster, even if then people say, “Oh, you know, this is not your profession,” it’s still something that hurts. And as the music director of the Chicago Symphony, to throw on the ground and to make a disaster. … So I practiced here [at Symphony Center] in the corridor two or three times, but with a shorter distance. So when I saw the distance, I was a bit worried. But when I saw this player waiting with his glove, I said, “I have to find the strength.” And then I thought if I do a downbeat very strong, a strong downbeat has a lot of power, it can help. And then, it went right there.”

Interview broadcast of June 18, 2012 – Andrew Patner


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