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Roker calms nerves, throws a strike

Roker calms nerves, throws a strike

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CLEVELAND -- Al Roker's expectations for one of his life's more nerve-wracking moments were modest.

Before warming up to throw the ceremonial first pitch prior to Game 3 of the American League Championship Series at Jacobs Field on Monday night, America's most famous weatherman couldn't remember the last time he picked up a baseball.

"Look, to say that I throw like a little girl is to insult little girls worldwide," Roker said with a laugh.

Heck, the man didn't even play the game he now loves as a kid.

"Actually, I was the base," he joked.

When his call came, Roker lofted a strike into the mitt of Indians outfielder Ben Francisco to the roars of an approving Jacobs Field crowd.

The "hometown" boy had delivered.

"What a great honor," Roker said. "This is just one of those things you never think you would ever get to do. It never dawned on me that I might get to throw out a first pitch in Cleveland."

That Roker's debut as an opening act at a Major League game came here was fitting.

Long before Roker went on to win 10 Emmy awards, informing millions of what was happening in their "neck of the woods" on NBC's "TODAY" show, he was Cleveland's weatherman.

From 1978-83, Roker called the shots locally for WKYC's newscasts.

And from his forays to the West Side Market and the city's museums to his trips to Cleveland's Municipal Stadium, it's a time he remembers fondly. In fact, he still considers the city a second home behind New York City.

"I loved the city," said Roker, whose sister lives in nearby Shaker Heights. "I still love the city. I come back here a lot. And what's nice is a lot of people think I grew up in Cleveland. I didn't, but I'm awfully proud to be associated with the people here. I had a great five years there."

He even took a liking to the Tribe, though not over his hometown Yankees.

"They always had a scrappy team in the '80s, just like the Browns, which I think reflected the city," Roker said. "I still keep track of them. I hope they go all the way this year."

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Roker hardly hesitated, then, upon receiving a call from the Indians last week. Throw out the first pitch? Before a Tribe playoff game?

"I was like, "Yeah,' if only to get tickets for my [siblings]," he said.

Then came the second thoughts.

"I started to realize, 'Oh wait, I actually have to throw the ball,'" Roker said.

He needed a strategy.

"I was thinking I could get a bazooka," Roker said, smiling.

In the end, though, Roker came to the mound unarmed, and his doubts would prove unfounded.

David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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