CHICAGO (AP) — Mary Ruich anticipated control issues.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be good, but I thought I’d be close,” she said Wednesday. “It was scary.”
The rookie right-hander threw one of the most wayward ceremonial first pitches ever when she plunked a team photographer standing close by, between the mound and first base line, prior to Tuesday’s game against the Kansas City Royals.
The ball went right off Darren Georgia’s lens, nowhere near the plate.
Ruich, a server in one of the Guaranteed Rate Field restaurants, earned the honor as a Chicago White Sox employee of the homestand, the team’s version of employee of the month.
She had no time to warm up or prepare — and it showed.
Georgia was startled and swung back towards the plate as pitcher Evan Marshall — who was supposed to catch the pitch — put his glove up to his mouth to try and hide his laughter.
“When I saw the camera get bobbled,” Ruich said, “I was like, ‘Oh my God! Maybe nobody saw that. I’ll just run away.’”
No chance of that happening.
Besides going viral on social media, a replay of the pitch was shown on newscasts throughout the country.
“Fortunately, she’s not on social media, so I’ve kind have been the filter,” said Ruich’s daughter, Nikki. “Most people commenting on it were nice. There were some mean ones, but most people were nice.”
Georgia joined Ruich at a news conference before the series finale. She presented him with a cake decorated like a baseball, including the scuff mark where the ball hit the camera.
“I’ve enjoyed the whole thing,” Georgia said. “I have no hard feelings towards Mary at all. The whole thing was hilarious, her reaction and other reactions were fantastic.”
White Sox manager Rick Renteria saw the pitch from the dugout.
“It was kind of funny,” he said. “It brings it to the surface that it’s not the easiest thing to get on that mound and try and throw a ball into the catcher’s mitt. She was a good sport. She did great with it.”
Asked whether she would like a do-over, Ruich initially responded: “Oh God, no.” Then she said she might consider an offer.
She had some advice to others throwing out ceremonial first pitches.
“Don’t stand on the mound. Maybe stand 10 feet away from the catcher,” she said. “It might be a little more pleasant.”