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TORONTO — Auston Matthews threw the ceremonial first pitch at the Toronto Blue Jays game against the New York Yankees on Tuesday.
“I definitely had to get warmed up before,” the Maple Leafs forward said on Wednesday morning after practice. “It’s been a minute since I’ve thrown a baseball. They boys were telling me to bring some heat.”
Growing up in Arizona, Matthews played Little League and one year of travel baseball though he said hockey often got in the way. His dad Brian was a pitcher, playing baseball at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
“I wasn’t much of a pitcher growing up, I had a pretty wild arm,” Matthews said. “I usually caught. I pitched a little bit but not very good.”
“I like to think growing up and playing, I had a decent throw. I like baseball, it was fun growing up. My dad played so we had something we always bonded over.”
While he knows all the cameras will be rolling when he takes to the field, Matthews was not about to make it easier on himself by getting closer to home plate.
“I think you’ve got to throw it from the rubber for sure, which I think makes it a little more difficult,” Matthews said. “I’ve thrown from there before and you see how high up they are, it definitely throws you off a bit but the right way to do it is definitely from the rubber.”
Mitchell Marner threw out a ceremonial first pitch at the Blue Jays game on Jun. 13, 2017 and set the standard fairly high for Matthews. Marner pitched from the rubber and though the pitch was slightly off the plate, he did get it there in the air. He said he is not too worried about Matthews’ pitching ability.
“He’s a baseball player growing up, he knows how to throw a baseball,” Marner said. “We were joking around with him asking what he’s throwing tonight and if he’s going to confuse the catcher. I’m sure he will do great with the throw. It would be fun if he does chunk it … That would be quite funny but he’s an American, lived in Arizona his whole life. I’m sure he played a lot of baseball so there shouldn’t be too much worry with him.”
Prior to being drafted No. 1 at the 2016 NHL Draft, Matthews took batting practice along with other top prospects that year in Buffalo at Sahlen Field but could not manage to hit a home run.
Watching Aaron Judge chase the New York Yankees record for home runs in a single season set at 61 by Roger Maris in 1961 has been incredible, Matthews said. Matthews can relate to what Judge is attempting after setting the Maple Leafs single-season goals record last season at 60, surpassing Rick Vaive’s record of 54 set in 1981-82.
“It seems like in the last two months, this guy is hitting homers every night,” Matthews said. “It’s pretty impressive to watch that, he’s an incredible player. Growing up my dad always told me the hardest thing to do in sports is hit a little white baseball coming at you 100mph, so it’s pretty cool to see what he’s been able to do and the history with their franchise and how far back it goes.”
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