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CINNATI -- Marty Brennaman has watched thousands of ceremonial first pitches during his nearly 40 years as a Reds broadcaster, and when the honoree is someone he knows or who is a celebrity in some fashion, he basically has one standard rule when judging the quality of the pitch.
"I don't care if you throw a strike, I don't care if you throw it to the screen," Brennaman tells them. "You just better not bounce it."
Bouncing the pitch in front of the plate will garner you a small amount of good-natured ridicule on the airwaves at some point during the broadcast, an exercise that has brought Brennaman quite a bit of satisfaction over the years. And that's partly why he was breaking out in a sweat in the hours leading up to Game 4 of the National League Division Series on Wednesday.
The Reds asked Brennaman to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, which he readily accepted. He then spent the next several hours, as he put it, "worried to death about it."
Throwing the first pitch looks easy from the stands, or from the radio booth where Brennaman normally watches the pregame scene unfold. It's something quite different to actually be the one throwing, and Brennaman, while offering his typical humor on the situation, fully admitted he was nervous.
"I woke up at 3:25 this morning and couldn't go back to sleep for an hour thinking about it," he said. "I'm conjuring up in my mind, staring into darkness, 60 feet, six inches. That's 20 yards. That's a long way."
Especially when you're not playing at 100 percent, as they say in baseball. Brennaman tore a tendon in his left elbow while playing golf during the Reds' trip to Philadelphia, an injury so painful that "I felt like someone had cut my arm off," he said.
Brennaman is going to undergo surgery to repair the elbow after the season is over, but for now, he's "operating under tremendous physical burden" (his words). He also fully admitted he was playing the injury card just in case things didn't go well on the mound.
There was a happy ending, however. Brennaman threw a perfect strike, and the arm motion didn't appear to cause that elbow any extra pain.
"If I make a great throw, I'm going to say I'm the perfect example of an athlete who guts it up and overcomes personal pain and discomfort to enjoy one of my finest moments," he said earlier in the day.
Brennaman wasn't so concerned about how fast he could get the pitch to the plate. He simply didn't want to embarrass himself. He did vow, however, that he would give himself the same treatment on the radio as he gave others if he did indeed bounce the pitch.
"I'd be a liar if I said it's a piece of cake," he said. "It's no piece of cake, I can tell you that."