Unforgettable Fourth: Gymnast's pitch perfect

Olympian Biles' toss part of pregame ceremony for holiday matinee

July 4th, 2016

HOUSTON -- U.S. gymnast Simone Biles has won 10 gold medals and three World all-around championships.

She's the first African-American to be world all-around champion and the first woman to win three consecutive World all-around titles.

She's only 19 years old and has already earned a spot in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio this August.

So it's a little surprising how nervous she was when the Astros asked her to throw the ceremonial first pitch for Monday's game between the Astros and Mariners on the Fourth of July.

"I think I'm more nervous than whenever I compete on a four-inch beam, which is kind of weird," Biles said. " … I don't think I'm a big celebrity in sports, but I guess in gymnastics I am. … To me, I'm just Simone, so when [the Astros asked me], it was just kind of like, 'Woah.'"

It probably didn't help matters that Biles had never thrown a baseball before. Luckily, she got to prepare a little bit.

"Yesterday, my dad dragged me outside and made me practice," Biles said.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Monday morning that it was special to have a U.S. world champion throw the first pitch on the Fourth of July.

"We'll be in the presence of one of the best in the world," Hinch said. "It's cool.

"To be the best in the world is pretty remarkable. I know there are a lot of people who are excited to see her and support her in her endeavors. She represents the city of Houston, the city of Spring, her family very, very well."

Hinch also offered some words of encouragement for Biles.

"She's going to be nervous," Hinch said. "Good. She can perform in front of millions and millions of people in the Olympics, but 60 feet seems like pretty long to throw a baseball."

When the time finally came, Biles did a side aerial flip before tossing the ball right into Scott Feldman's glove.

"Today of all days to throw the first pitch for the Astros," said Nellie Biles, Simone's mother. "This is the Fourth of July. I don't think it gets any better than this."

Biles' pitch was only part of the pregame ceremonies. The Astros also unfurled a giant U.S. flag, introduced the five branches of the military and recognized Sergeant Nicholas Low, a combat veteran who served six years in Iraq, by presenting him with free Whataburger for an entire year.

Maybe Simone, who currently lives in Spring, Texas, can give the Astros a little luck. The club has a losing record (27-31) on the Fourth of July and has lost nine straight Independence Day games.