Hamilton relishes second chance

Hamilton relishes second chance

CLEVELAND -- Whatever perceptions fans may have had about his profession, Scott Hamilton wanted to end them with one pitch.

"When you're a male figure skater, you get teased a lot for being in a girl's sport," Hamilton said. "So you want to bring it."

He did. And then some. Hamilton, throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before an Indians game a few years ago, reared back and threw the ball with all his power -- to the backstop. Not even diving Tribe manager Charlie Manuel could tame his fastball.

Given a second shot Thursday night at Jacobs Field before Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, would Hamilton shift his strategy?

"Nah," he said, smiling.

Hamilton, along with country singer Danielle Peck, headlined the pregame ceremonies. And as the Tribe looked to clinch the AL pennant, the Bowling Green, Ohio, native and Indians fan could not envision himself being capable of suppressing his excitement.

He was right. Excitement won once again. He launched the ball to the backstop.

"This is one of those nights where 44,000 will be here and 100,000 will say they were here when this happened," Hamilton said. "To be able to throw out the first pitch is an honor -- period.

"But to be able to do this in a game of this importance, it's really exciting. It's a very humbling honor. You can't even articulate it. It's just beyond words."

For good reason. The four-time world champion and 1984 Olympic gold medal winner turned skating commentator grew up with baseball. His house in northwest Ohio edging a Little League field, Hamilton watched with a fond eye as his friends played ball.

So while figure skating took him away from the sport, he never lost his love. Particularly for the Indians. And Hamilton, a cancer survivor who gives motivational speeches, likes what he sees from the Tribe this year.

"You cast for chemistry," he said. "You can cast 'Stars on Ice,' for example, purely for chemistry and they could put a product out there that people can look and say, 'Wow, this is great.'

"You're serving your purpose in the community as role models. People in the show are going to support each other 100 percent. You cast for chemistry, and it's the same thing in professional sports and right here. You're really pulling for the underdogs.

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As far as Hamilton's pregame sidekick, Peck received attention of a different sort.

Peck, you see, once dated Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett. And she just so happened to be performing the national anthem before the biggest start of Beckett's season.

Coincidence? Yes. The Indians originally scheduled country artist Taylor Swift to perform Thursday, but she backed out earlier this week. An official from Swift's label then suggested Peck, a rising country star.

Peck, who hails from central Ohio, seemed a natural fit. Only when a Boston reporter called the Indians to inquire about the selection did they realize Peck's connection to Beckett.

So stash away the conspiracy theories, said Bob DiBiasio, the team's vice president of public relations.

"People believe we had those bugs [from Game 2 of the AL Division Series] in a box somewhere underneath that we just go and unleash when we feel like," DiBiasio said. "I wish we were that good. We would have done it since '48. We wouldn't have waited until now. How would we know [about Peck]? I didn't know."

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