Photo credit: Ian Oland
On the eve of his 26th birthday (send us your birthday cards!), Alex Ovechkin — adorned with *gasp* Cal Ripken’s retired #8 Orioles jersey — traveled up I-95 Friday to take batting practice and throw out the ceremonial first pitch ahead of Baltimore’s match-up against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
The Great Hockey Eight, making his first ever appearance at Camden Yards, had only one goal: not to embarrass himself in front of a few thousand Charm-Citiers.
“I’m kinda excited,” Ovechkin told CSN’s Chris Miller before the first pitch. “I saw on YouTube John Wall’s [first pitch] a couple of minutes ago, and I hope it’s not gonna happen with me. I practice a little bit so it’s good. I feel comfortable.”
Ovechkin, who happily took the field wearing a white Nike hat, designer jeans, and Nike sneakers, sparked a bit of controversy on Twitter by wearing the number eight, which was absent-mindedly un-retired by Orioles officials for the night.
“I don’t want to take his number in baseball. He’s a Hall of Famer and he was the best. I’m lucky I got to meet him,” the Russian superstar told the Baltimore Sun, referring to a fundraising event he met Ripken at in Janaury. “It’s always so nice when you meet that kind of person and that kind of a star.”
Forget the controversy. So how about that first pitch? Ovi’s pitch, er, more like heave, sailed a bit high — and wide — but was easily snagged at home.
Earlier in the night, batting practice didn’t go much better. “I try to make home run. Do funny stuff,” Ovechkin explained. “But not even close.”
All in all though, it was a good night. The lowly Orioles won, 8-3 (you gotta be kidding me); Ovechkin got to hang out on the field with former model and now Angels commentator, Leeann Tweeden; and Tuesday’s Charm City Classic, an event where Ovi can wear his red #8 sweater with no objections from the people of Baltimore, got plenty of pub.
“I guarantee if you put the ball on the rubber with a hockey stick he’d throw a strike,” said O’s manager Buck Showalter.
Video of Alex Ovechkin’s Ceremonial First Pitch
Caps365 Behind-The-Scenes Video
Ovi’s Interview with CSN’s Chris Miller
Additional Photos by Ian Oland (click to enlarge)