Yesterday was a landmark day for Major League Baseball. It was the start of the World Series between the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals, Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden were on the mound with an injured veteran to throw out the first pitch, and the crowd was electric. Baseball could do no wrong yesterday, except they did.
The Texas Rangers reached out to Dirk Nowitzki, the most recent person to lead a Metroplex team to a championship, and asked him to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at one of the Rangers’ home games in Arlington during the World Series. Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks leapt into the national spotlight when they defeated the favored Miami Heat for their first NBA title in June. It seems that Nowitzki, who was named Finals MVP, is a perfect choice to be a representative of the area but the MLB did not think so.
Major League Baseball gave no real reason to deny Nowitzki the opportunity to throw the first pitch, his submission by the Rangers was simply declined. Some speculated that it was because MLB front office types did not want to be seen as not showing solidarity with their counterparts in the NBA who have locked out the players for 111 days and counting. However, Marc Stein of ESPN, who broke the story on Wednesday, believed the decision by MLB was based on Nowitzki not having “broad-based” appeal.
Shortly after the news broke about the decision to not have Nowitzki toss a first pitch a slew of negative reactions lit up the internet. In the never ending public relations battle that is professional sports (see: Stern, David), Major League Baseball struck out. Baseball is a funny sport, rooted in its past, but it must adapt to its present as well. denying Nowitzki was a further example of the stodgy hierarchy of baseball neglecting to notice the world outside their sport. Nowitzki is a regional hero. He has been the face of the Mavericks for over a decade. Perhaps MLB officials never noticed him or basketball, but in the world of the internet and Sports Center, that is unlikely.
With the negative press swirling, Bud Selig, the commissioner of Major League Baseball who was not involved in the original decision, and the Major League brass rescinded their earlier ruling on Nowitzki. Whether it was the bad press on the day that the World Series started or not wanting to become the latest Bryant Gumble opinion piece that changed their minds the public will likely never know.
Nowitzki will be throwing out the first pitch before game three on Saturday.