Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
July 10, 2014, Victoria, BC (ISN) – Baseball fans of all ages and abilities came to Royal Athletic Park on Thursday to help the Victoria HarbourCats set a new minor league baseball record for the most ceremonial first pitches prior to a game. The total – a whopping 5,253 – was highlighted by pitch number 5,000 being thrown by young fan Harrison Robilliard and the final pitch in the count being tossed by former big leaguer Jason Grimsley.
Young fan Harrison Robilliard had the honour of delivering the 5,000 pitch on Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The creative promotion put on by the HarbourCats began at 8:30 am on Thursday and fans were waiting at the gate to be the first to throw. Throughout the day, a steady stream of fans lined-up near the pitchers mound and by 2:00 pm the pitch total had topped the 3,250 mark.
Young, old, male, female, business men in suits, firemen in uniform, students in shorts and t-shirts, it didn’t matter…anyone and everyone was welcome to come to the park and throw, not just one, but as many pitches as they wanted to throw. They could also sign up to win prizes from Peninsula Co-Op, the event sponsor, or just hang out and goof around with Harvey-the-HarbourCat while they enjoyed a sun-filled afternoon at the ballpark.
Young, old, male, female…fans of all ages and abilities were on hand Thursday to help set the new first pitch record (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Some fans spent the better part of the day throwing pitches and enjoying time on the diamond. One such family were the Robilliards from Victoria. Father Pete, sons Luc and Harrison and daughter Rachel spent close to four hours rotating through the line and accounting for – at best estimate – around 600 pitches all on their own. Luc got to break the official record by throwing pitch 4,219, while the younger Harrison had the honour of throwing the 5,000 pitch of the day.
The Robilliard family, from left to right Luc, Rachel, father Pete and Harrison, spent close to four hours on the field, contributing an estimated 600 pitches in total to the record (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
A number of local media celebrities including CHEK-TV’s Mike Walker, CTV’s Jordan Cunningham, ISN’s Erich Eichhorn and this author also did their part to contribute to the pitch count, as did many of the HarbourCats and Medford Rogue’s players. And of course a number of HarbourCats staffers and Harvey also did their part.
CTV’s Jordan Cunningham (left), CHEK-TV’s Mike Walker (centre) and HarbourCats GM Jim Swanson (right) all showed their style on the mound (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
HarbourCats General manager Jim Swanson was overwhelmed with how the promotion turned out. “I really did not know how this would go today and was worried no one would be here. But we have had a non-stop flow of people since the beginning and the buzz in the community and on social media has been fantastic! And to top it off with well over 5,200 pitches thrown and a mascot and former big leaguer throwing the final two pitches? That was really fantastic!”
The final two pitches of the new record were thrown by Cooper, the mascot for event sponsor Peninsula Co-op, and by former Major League pitcher Jason Grimsley, the father of John Grimsley, an outfielder with the HarbourCats.
The final two pitches of the evening went to Cooper, the Peninsula Co-Op Mascot (left) and former big league pitcher Jason Grimsley (right), 2-time World Series champion and father of HarbourCat player John Grimsley (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The previous record – reported to be 4,218 – was held by the Brevard County Manatees who accomplished the feat in 2013. The most ever simultaneous first pitches ever thrown was achieved by 111 pitchers and was organized by the Ehime Mandarin Pirates at the Botchan Stadium, Ehime-ken, Japan, on 26 August 2011. Perhaps that is the next first pitch record that the HarbourCats can set their sights on.