"It was a great experience," said Matthew Sphar, Elite Series pro and former high school baseball player, as he discussed "throwing" out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game.
"I didn't throw a strike, but it was interesting, and I think BASS and the Elite Series got some really good publicity out of it. That's what it was really all about, anyway, having fun and promoting the sport of professional bass fishing."
That exposure started at the front gate of Dunn Tire Park, where the Buffalo Bisons would later defeat the Richmond Braves on Friday, July 18, by a score of 16-3.
"They let me park my tow vehicle and boat right by the entrance before the game. It was a big hit. Lots of people stopped to check out the boat, take pictures, have autographs signed and pick up some of the items we were giving away such as stick fans and spongy fish. It worked out real well, especially for the kids. They loved it."
Sphar does admit that casting the first pitch wasn't all that easy, however. He first attached his fishing line to the baseball by working it under the windings of the ball and tying it in place, presumably with a Palomar knot. Then, to reduce the ball's weight he drilled the center out of it. The result was a hollow baseball that he could handle with rod and reel.
"I practiced in the yard with my friend, Matt Ellis, the week before the game, but our practice was cut short by injury. I got excited and fired the ball a little too fast. It hit him on the knee. It swelled up pretty big — real nasty looking — so we had to cut practice short.
"Because of that I had to go to the game without enough practice. My pitch — really a kind of sidearm roll cast — was a little low. But, the Bisons' mascot, Buster, managed to catch it anyway and run all around the infield as I reeled him in. We had a good time with everyone laughing and carrying on.
"The fans really enjoyed it. That's what counts in the end. I think we — professional anglers — should do more of this kind of thing. It would help our sport in the long-run."