Thursday, October 2, 2014

#TBT: 2010 IRA Champs Throw out First Pitch at San Francisco Giants Game

Vlahos and Cal throw out the first pitch (Photo: B. Kitch)
As I was going through Instagram earlier today, I ran across a very familiar photo posted by U.S. national team coxswain, and 2012 Olympian, Zach Vlahos. The photo comes from my first-ever assignment for then Rowing News (now ROWING Magazine), which was to cover the Cal men's varsity eight's trip to AT&T Park for the old version of the magazine's website. The article is no longer online, but I've included the copy below. A big thanks to Chip Davis once again for the opportunity—for a Bay Area native and a lifelong Giants fan, it was a evening to remember.

THURSDAY, 14 APRIL 2011 07:46
By Bryan Kitch of RowingRelated

In front of a sellout crowd at AT&T Park, the 2010 IRA champion California men's varsity eight was honored for their achievement by the reigning World Series Champion Giants organization, and despite the stature of the Bears' rowers, which would lend itself well to pitching, they elected coxswain and Bay Area native Zach Vlahos to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Naturally, this faith in their coxswain was expressed in a variety of ways—most of them pejorative—and the brisk conditions on the field combined with the pressure of 42,000 plus fans watching made for some nerves. In the midst of all this, the Bears' stroke from 2010, Nareg Guregian (who most recently represented the U.S. in the men's pair with coxswain in Karapiro), took advantage of the lull before it was time to take the field to record some predictions for Vlahos' performance.



After a bit more banter and some nervous pacing, the Giants' bearded relief pitcher Sergio Romo came out to greet the team, and explained the process to Vlahos. As he arrived, Romo did his best impression of a rowing stroke, to the delight of the Cal oarsmen. The Giants' stadium announcer then introduced the Bears, and correctly recited their winning time and their margin over the University of Washington at IRAs last year. As the Bears (with the exception of William Dean, who is currently training with the Canadian national team) and their coaching staff assembled behind the mound, forming a semicircle around their coxswain, Romo took his position behind the plate, and Vlahos delivered a fastball that might have been a strike according to the rulebook (though it was a little up in the zone). As they walked back toward the Giants dugout, I asked Mike Teti what he thought of Vlahos' performance.

"I think he did great—and I won the bet!" said Teti, "Everyone else predicted one, two, or three bounces. I said, 'No bounces—right into the glove.'" Later, I asked Cal three seat James Long-Lerno about his own prediction. When he said much the same thing as his coach, I told him that Teti had claimed to be the only one who'd had faith in Vlahos as he took the mound. "Of course Mike said that," said Long-Lerno.

The Bears then watched the Giants win the final game in a three game series with the rival Dodgers. In the process, their new best friend, Sergio Romo, struck out the Dodgers' hottest hitter, Matt Kemp, on a slider fading away from the outside corner to end the seventh inning. "I pretty much told him to do that," said Vlahos.

--30--

Now that was fun.

-Bryan

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