Alumni offer advice for Franklin's first pitch

Trey Miller
April 27, 2015

The last time Penn State football coach James Franklin was in Yankee Stadium, it was for the Nittany Lions’ 31-30 overtime victory in the 2014 New Era Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 27.

Franklin returns to Yankee Stadium to celebrate that victory Tuesday. He’ll throw out the first pitch when the Yankees take on the Tampa Bay Rays at 7:05 p.m.

From presidents to musicians, countless celebrities to other dignitaries, many people have taken the mound to make the 60-foot-6-inch toss from the pitching rubber to home plate through the years -- with some having more success than others.

VIDEO: President Bush, 2001
VIDEO: 50 Cent, 2014

A handful of Penn State alumni who are familiar with the New York Yankees and who have seen many first pitches, offered advice to Franklin as he prepared to take the bump.

With thousands of people sure to be watching, one consistent piece of advice from College of Communications alumni was attributed to Yankees great Derek Jeter. The former shortstop told then-President George W. Bush not to bounce it, or the crowd would boo. Bush took the mound prior to Game 3 of the 2001 World Series, the first World Series game in New York following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Tom Verducci, a 1982 journalism graduate, has been a baseball writer for Sports Illustrated since 1993 and works on television for Fox Sports and the MLB Network. He was a longtime Yankees beat writer and wrote “The Yankee Years” with Joe Torre, which was published in 2009. Verducci offered a general tip and some specific pitching advice.

“Like you would before any big game, make sure you warm up properly,” Verducci stressed to Franklin. “One more tip: act like a knuckleball pitcher. Knuckleball pitchers aim at the top of the catcher's mask because without much velocity their ball is more affected by gravity. The same principle works on first pitches. You never want to bounce it, so aim a bit higher than usual. Oh, one more thing. Take a good look around and have fun!”

Pete Gergely, a senior producer for Yankees Productions, creates video content for the Yankees and assists with parts of scoreboard game-day production. A 2001 journalism graduate of Penn State, he offered some practical advice for Franklin.

“I can't give very much baseball advice because I haven't played in years,” said Gergely. “But, I can say that being a part of the video production team, he needs to make sure he gets the ball to the plate, because if not, it will be captured on video forever.  Also, throw from the real mound, and not on the grass in front. He'll get much more respect from the crowd that way.”

A 1992 broadcast-cable graduate, Sweeny Murti has seen his fair share of first pitches as the Yankees beat reporter for WFAN, the nation’s first all-sports radio station. Murti had similar suggestions.

“I’d give him the same advice that Derek Jeter gave President Bush,” said Murti. “And make sure you ask for a few warm-up throws underneath before going out there!”

Will Pakutka, like Verducci a 1982 journalism grad, serves as the assistant sports editor at the New York Daily News. He also mentioned Jeter’s advice for President Bush’s first pitch.

“The advice was to just throw it and not get fancy,” said Pakutka. “The president tossed a prefect strike, which was important so soon after Sept. 11. Either that, or try whatever 50 Cent did.”

Last Updated June 02, 2021