May 7, 2010
SEATTLE -- All day Friday, Quincy Pondexter was nervous for his big night. He has played basketball in front of 20,000-plus crowds, spoke in front of large groups at black-tie affairs and even danced to Tchaikovsky in the Nutcracker. Yet, the thought of throwing a baseball in front of 30,000 Seattle Mariners fans was almost too much to handle.
"Man, I'm nervous!" said Pondexter before taking the stage at SAFECO Field. It was not so much stage fright as it was the possibility of throwing the ball off target that had Pondexter sweating. And with a limited baseball background, the odds were looking stacked against the Huskies' All-Pac-10 player.
In fact, Pondexter was nervous enough that during a Friday radio appearance on the Dave "Softy" Mahler show he invited fans to come down to Bank of America Arena to teach him how to properly throw a baseball. About 15 fans made the trip down to Hec Ed and offered their services and had an unique opportunity to rub elbows with a future NBA player. Both parties came out winners in the deal -- yet the Husky superstar was still unsure of what awaited him.
The team arrived at the ballpark about 45 minutes before the game and after an interview with FSN and photos with several groups on the field, it was showtime for the Dawgs. Pondexter asked the coaches and his teammates what should he do. Should he do a full windup? Should he pitch from the top of the mound or in front of it? Should he wave the catcher's signal off? He got plenty of advice but ultimately was nervous as could be before taking the mound.
Each coach and player was introduced and welcomed heartily by the fans that had arrived extra early because of the Ken Griffey Jr. '95 Slide Bobblehead doll being handed out as they came through the gates. The crowd saved the loudest applause for Pondexter, who wore a white No. 24 Mariners jersey to the game.
At first, it appeared Pondexter was going to throw from the front of the mound on the grass. He was advised by Seattle Mariners Marketing Director Gregg Greene that many guests end up bouncing it in when they try to throw from the pitching rubber. Pondexter, being the risk-taker that he is, decided that he was going to go for it.
He took his place atop the mound, shook off the sign from Mariners outfielder Ryan Langerhans, went in the windup and hurled the ball towards the plate. Though no one would describe the throw as dart-like in trajectory, the ball did safely find its way into Langerhans glove on the fly. Pondexter held his follow-through like he had just nailed a three-pointer and was posing for pictures.
As the team came off the field, Pondexter wiped his brow. With the big moment out of the way, it was time to head up to their suite and enjoy the real action on the field. With that, Pondexter's latest big moment was over.
"Piece of cake," he would quip as a he walked off the field. "I had it all the way."