Nolan Ryan’s first pitch at the Houston Astros' home opener Tuesday was almost as far from what spectators expected as it was from the plate.
The 67-year-old baseball Hall of Famer, who was known for his devastating curveball and mesmerizing fastball that routinely exceeded 100 mph, threw a wild ball that veered so far to the right of the plate former Astros catcher Craig Biggio, 48, failed to catch it despite his desperate lunge. Biggio was a rookie catcher back in 1988 when he caught Ryan’s 100th victory as an Astro, the Houston Chronicle noted
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"I wanted to get it where it was catchable," Ryan chuckled later to MLB.com
. "It wasn't."
"It's not my first wild pitch. It probably won't be my last," Ryan added.
Despite the wild ceremonial pitch to open up the game, the Astros went on to beat the New York Yankees 6-2. Fans were also treated to a performance by country music singer and Texas native Clay Walker, who sang the national anthem, which he concluded with the exclamation "God Bless Houston," MLB.com noted.
"It's just an exciting day," Biggio said following the pitch. "It's also a nervous day for the players, because now all of the numbers count. It's the grind and the anticipation of playing every game. It's just a great day."
Aside from the Astros pride that was on full display throughout the day, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who will be retiring at the end of the 2014 season, received a standing ovation for his service to the game from the audience of mostly Houston fans at Minute Maid Park.
Both Ryan and Biggio are presently invested with the Astros, with the pitching great having recently rejoined the front office after resigning as Texas Rangers CEO last year
. The veteran catcher started working as a special assistant for Houston after he retired in 2007.
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