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First pitch will span the globe

First pitch to span the globe

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The typical first-pitch ceremony covers 60 feet, six inches, sometimes less. The ceremonial toss at the Indians' 2008 home opener at Progressive Field, however, will top that -- by about 7,000 miles.

Andre Hampton, a National Guard corporal and Progressive Insurance employee, was selected to do the honor as the Indians swing into their 108th season Monday, March 31. It turns out, however, that the South Euclid, Ohio, native will be two weeks into his second tour of duty overseas on Opening Day. So, Corporal Hampton made a call to the bullpen and chose his mother, Kim Shockley, to represent him in tossing the ceremonial first pitch.

Hampton himself will remain a part of the ceremony -- the six-year Guardsman has taped a message from his base in Kuwait that will be played on the scoreboard prior to the first pitch. That part thrills his mother.

"I'm so proud of Andre," said Ms. Shockley. "And this is a way to recognize all the brave men and women who serve our country."

Few would know better -- Shockley herself is a former employee of the Department of Defense. "Andre grew up as an army brat. In between tours of duty, we've called Cleveland our home all our lives. So, this is a tribute involving Clevelanders, a Cleveland company [Progressive], Andre's service, and our armed forces."

Hampton left for Kuwait in the middle of March. His first tour of duty overseas was in Italy. In between service stints, he is an employee of Progressive. In fact, he was training at Fort Hood, Texas, last month when he received word from Progressive about the first pitch. When he learned he could choose someone to represent him at the opener, his next call was an easy one to make.

"She's the first person I thought about, no doubt about it," said Hampton. "My mom loves the Cleveland Indians. Our whole family tries to find Indians clothing and gifts for her every Christmas and birthday. We were running out of things we could give, but this will top everything."

Shockley recalls going to "three or four" Cleveland home openers in her life and figures a July game in 1997 to be her best experience at an Indians game. She took her youngest son to the ballpark for his birthday that day. "But this tops everything," she conceded. "Opening Day is just so special."

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: : :   This Edition: March 26, 2007   : : :

The special tribute and ceremonial first pitch will take place shortly before the Indians' 3:05 p.m. ET tilt against the Chicago White Sox. Ms. Shockley will be joined in the ceremony by Andre's wife, Leslie Hardy, and two sons -- Alazander (age 2) and Xavier (6 months).

Despite the fact he'll be 7,000 miles away, Corporal Hampton also figures to have guests on hand for the ceremony.

"I want the guys from my unit to come over with me for the satellite hookup," said Hampton. "I want to share this with them."

Skip Snow is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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