A New York Times articles explains how the first pitch tradition is being eroded in Major League Baseball:
In a sport that clings to its traditions — from managers wearing uniforms to the playing of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch — one time-honored feature at the ballpark has taken an absurd turn, at least for the game’s purists: the ceremonial first pitch.
I had no idea it was this bad until I read about animals throwing out the first pitch:
For decades, the honor was extended only a few times a season to a rarefied group that included presidents, mayors and military veterans. These days, it is regarded as a marketing opportunity, a sweetener in sponsorship deals between baseball teams and groups that want a piece of the spotlight.
The rite, now carried out nightly, is handed to actors and reality television stars, sponsors’ representatives and contest winners, and people dressed as animals as well as actual animals.
A capuchin monkey carried the ball out for a San Diego Padres game in September. Twice in the last two seasons, the Los Angeles Dodgers have welcomed to the mound Hello Kitty, or, rather, a person dressed as Hello Kitty.
Yikes. Actually, it gets worse:
Sometimes, there are ceremonial second, third, fourth and fifth pitches. The day after making his major league debut this month, John Gast, a promising pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, crouched up and down to catch five pitches. The honorees that day were Edward Jones, a financial planning company; the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency; the Washington University School of Medicine; a local radio station; and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
So next time you’re at the game, you may be witness to something like this prior to the game: