The thing about anxiety is that it can be managed, especially if you have a plan and a support system. Managed, not cured or fixed.
Throwing out the first pitch during a MLB game in front of many thousands of people during the official Pride Night is the sort of thing that generates some anxiety. Not having touched a ball since the softball in the face incident of 1994 combined with not being a sporty person in general adds fuel to that fire.
That was the hardest part – getting out of the door. I knew I’d click “on” once I was around the kids and on the field. I show up, if I can get there. I was counting on that – surrounding myself with people counting on me to show up.
Still, I really wanted to do this. For the “entourage” of niblings who accompanied me onto the sidelines. For the fat middle aged women who are also not sporty. For the anxious folx. For myself. I wanted to do this because I worked hard to earn that blogging award from GLAAD and I deserved to enjoy the moment – note, I am not saying I am the ‘most’ deserving person in Pittsburgh, just that I’m on the list. As are many, many people.
So I worked with my therapist to develop a plan to pinpoint and address the exact things that might detail me using a technique called Future Template. I shared it with my close friends and asked them to help me. I got some help with the physical task of actually pitching, surrounded by my family giving me encouragement instead of the shame/criticism more popular among community league coaches. What a difference it makes when people see the best in what you try to do rather than focusing on what they expect you to do.
And I worked very, very hard this past week in particular to work that Future Template we developed. I went over every step, every detail. I planned everything. It hit 90+ degrees several days in a row making further practice impossible. So I went over the pitching template I had developed with my coach. I knew I could throw 30 feet within a reasonable distance of the plate. That was sufficient to not embarrass myself. I stretched and used the linament he gave to me. He sent me encouraging texts right up to the moment.
I swear to God, time flew triple fast on Friday. I kept distracting myself from the secret hope I would be extracted from the scenario by an unexpected thunderstorm or other non-fatal disaster. I ate a hearty lunch with my wife, including cake. For lunch. Then my friend Anne came over to help me navigate the final hours, we jumped in the car and off we went to pick up two niblings and head for the park.
I had already planned every stitch of clothing I’d wear so that was a non-issue. I just followed the plan – I got dressed, I had my bags, I got into the backseat with the niblings, and off we went.
That was the hardest part – getting out of the door. I knew I’d click “on” once I was around the kids and on the field. I show up, if I can get there. I was counting on that – surrounding myself with people counting on me to show up. My ‘entourage’ (I will never let them forget that label) and I went into the administrative offices along with other queer VIP guests – some were unfurling the flags, others were singings, and I’m not entirely sure who was doing what. I stuck with my entourage. And our liaison, Al.
Al was the one who realized that the Chick-fil-A mascot (cow) did not belong at Pride Night at PNC Park. Such a small thing, but a smart one. The very last thing we needed was a group of pissed off queer folx booing and tossing hot dogs at a giant cow.
I had selected number 57 for my official jersey. That’s the number of trans folx who were victims of the nationwide campaign of terror in 2021, the most murderous year in recorded history. I used the baseball glove of my dear departed friend, Kevin. I thought about my mum a lot.
They gave us lanyards. They gave us shirts. They gave me the ceremonial game ball. Then we took the walk onto the field. It was strangely like a little league field. The dugout was not very big, but well stocked with stuff. We stood on the dirt with the strict admonition not to step on the grass (turf?) and we stood there.
A lot of people asked if they could take our photo so that was nice – several good family photos. I met the team President and another important person whose face I can visualize, but whose name I forgot. The team president told me the trick was to stand on the actual mound, then walk to the very front of it so I was actually level with homeplate. It was pretty cool watching the hustle and bustle of the game preparation activities. So many big brooms.
There was a slow countdown of events – the flag was unfurled, the Parrot made the rounds, big checks were presented to multiple LGBTQ organizations including Allies for Health + Wellbeing. The announcer whom I recognized as the spokesperson for West Shore Home asked me how to pronounce a few things. West Shore Home runs commercials during the evening news pretty much every night.
I spoke with the Parrot and confirmed that they would do the heavy lifting. I took a breath and walked out to the pitchers mound with my stage person (also forgot his name, but he was very nice.) Then he left and it was just me and a gaggle of photographers. I wasn’t exactly sure when to do something. Should I wave? Tip my glove? Take a bow?
I just looked at my family and then the Parrot. I heard them say something like “Show us that pitch, Sue …” and I just did it. I had already aligned my shoulders, hips, and feet. I adjusted my weight, I took a step and released the ball with my fingers pointing at the Parrot. The Parrot caught the ball a little outside of the batters box, but I’ll take it.
I threw it about 45 feet, I think. That’s a guesstimate. But respectable for a 51-year-old woman who hasn’t touched a ball in nearly 30 years. It veered right, but I still count distance as a win.
And it was done. We took some photos and I was ushered off the field to my entourage who were cheering and congratulating me. It was a heady moment.
We stayed for the National Anthem sung by the Renaissance City Choir. I was tempted to kneel, to be honest. But I didn’t. I just listened to them singing and took in the moment, one I will likely never have again. And a few minutes later they were directing us to our seats WAY up in nosebleed heaven. And there I found the rest of our group.
We busied ourselves getting water, food orders, saying hello, etc. My phone was pinging with messages, photos, videos clips – my friend Pam recorded from her TV using her phone to capture all the replays – and comments. I had to put my phone away though because my second youngest nibbling sat next to me and began talking about stuff. We talked about baseball, Jurassic Park, cats, chickens, science and math. We talked for a solid hour as the game played out. His older sister chimed in a few times. The other niblings were with their parents. It was exactly the sort of conversation to help ground me and let the adrenaline ebb.
There was so much more. It was incredible. I certainly won’t forget that night.
Now the niblings want to know if I can win an award and take them as my entourage to a Penguins/Steelers sort of situation. They don’t even actually read my blog … I do love these kids, but they got some expectations.
Ava and I had an adventure trying to find ice cream that took us down to like the 7th subterranean level of PNC Park. She had to eat her brothers and I had to eat Laura’s on the way up to salvage the situation. I kept making corny jokes about taking one for the team. She smiled gamely at each attempt.
On the way out, we had a heated discussion about the proper plural term to describe more than one Tyrannosaurus. We had a Greek/Latin expert with us who clarified that I was wrong with Tyrannosaurai and Jack was right with Tyrannosauruses. I’m appealing that call.
On a personal note, the evening was very nice. On a activism note, it was powerful to feel the impact of the many people who made it possible, both through supporting this blog and supporting me. A lot of folx in the stands have deep ties to baseball stretching back 50 years. The Pirates mean a lot to us, even when they fumble. The relationship of LGBTQ folx to sports is powerful and deserves to be explored. Anything that helped us endure a hostile world and feel connected to our community is worth exploring.
We are family. Not everyone wants to get up and sing. That’s okay. We got you. We see you. We’re giving love in a family dose
@pghlesbian Clips from throwing #firstpitch during #PrideNight at #PNCPark in #Pittsburgh #pirates #pride #baseball #glaadawards #mlb #lesbian #pridefest @itsavadunhoff @pirates #PittsburghPirates #baseball #WeAreFamily #pghlesbian #lesbian #queer #lgbtq #anxiety #SayTheirNames #joy ♬ We Are Family (Single Version) – Sister Sledge
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