If I sat down and wrote out a bucket list, throwing the ceremonial first pitch at a professional baseball game would certainly be on there somewhere (are you listening Evansville Otters?).

Yesterday marked the opening day of the 2012 Major League Baseball season. In traditional fashion, many ballparks around the country featured special guests throwing out the first pitch of game, including the Chicago Cubs giving actor Bill Murray the honor at Wrigley Field. In typical Bill Murray fashion, he had fun with it by running the bases and sliding into home before taking the mound making it one of the more memorable opening pitches in recent memory. But there have been others that are equally as memorable if not more so, five of which I present to you here.

5. "Baby T-Rex"

While anyone who throws out the first pitch is honored to do so, there's usually something more behind their appearance. Back in August of 2008, a stage production called Walking with the Dinosaurs were performing in Chicago, so as a way to help promote the show, the Chicago White Sox asked a member of the cast to throw out the first pitch...in costume. What followed was probably one of the worst first pitches in baseball history, but also one of the most memorable.


4. Chewbacca

Theme nights are a popular way for sports teams to draw fans to the ball park. At some point last season, the Los Angeles Dodgers hosted Star Wars night complete with characters from the various branches of the franchise including Storm Troopers and Chewbacca who was given the honor of throwing out the game's first pitch. Apparently all that hair inhibits him from throwing a baseball across the plate.


3. Darth Vader

Not wanting the Rebel Alliance to get the upper hand in the court of public opinion, the Empire sent their closer, the all-powerful Darth Vader, to the mound before an Oakland A's game in September of last year. As you'll see, "The Force" was clearly not with him.


2. Cirque de Soleil Performer

By far one of the most unique and athletic first pitches ever thrown, a member of Cirque de Soleil literally "flips" over his opportunity (sorry, couldn't help myself) to throw out the opening pitch before a Kansas City Royals game in June of 2011.


1. President George W. Bush

On most lists, the Cirque de Soleil performer would be number one, hands down. But for me the appearance of President Bush during Game 3 of 2001 World Series is the most memorable not because of the pitch itself, but because of the meaning behind it.

After the September 11th attacks, Americans were trying to grasp the new reality of life. Increased security was present nearly everywhere as pat downs and body scanners started to slowly become the norm in an attempt to ensure we weren't blindsided again. As humans naturally tend to do following a traumatic event, we search for something, anything, that will bring us comfort. For many Americans, that "security blanket" was baseball, a.k.a. our "national pastime".

We Americans are also resilient and while we may not always get along with each other, the 9/11 attacks, as tragic and horrific as they were, renewed our spirit of patriotism. Our differences went by the wayside as we banded together to make a statement to the world that we would not live in fear, that we were as united as ever. President Bush throwing out the first pitch during Game 3 of the World Series between the Yankees and the Diamondbacks was the exclamation point of that statement.

Watching this video and listening to the crowd chant, "USA! USA!" as the President takes the field along with the eruption of cheers as he throws a nearly perfect strike across the plate nearly brings tears of pride to my eyes.

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