Yes, I’m throwing out the first pitch at tonight’s Red Sox game against the Angels. My wife won the prize at a charity auction and gave it to me for my 50th birthday. It’s an incredible gift, and one that allows me to reflect directly on some of the research I’ve been reading and writing about -- particularly the research on anxiety and performance.
Ever since my wife presented me with the gift last fall, friends, family, and strangers have inquired about my fitness and ability. “You know, it’s pretty far from pitcher’s mound to home plate. Can he throw it that far?” “Has he been practicing?” My cousin sent me a link to a YouTube video of a mayor throwing the first pitch into the dugout. “You don’t want to be like THAT guy.” Thanks everyone for the pressure.
I’m no athlete, so I’ve been playing a little catch. Sixty feet, six inches. When I’m just throwing the ball with my wife or son, it doesn’t seem like a problem. But practice is different from high stakes performance. Throwing in an empty field is different from throwing under the gaze of 35,000 fans. Okay, so none of those fans finding their seats and buying their hot dogs will actually be watching me; they’ll still be there. Will anxiety about not screwing up dominate my thinking and make me forget how to throw? Is this how some kids feel when they’re getting ready for high stakes testing?
I’ve got it easy. Whether I bounce the ball into home plate or throw a looping strike, I’ll give a satisfied smile and a fist pump. They only take pictures of me, not where the ball goes. Wish me luck.