UPDATE: MLB apparently changed its mind–or had its mind changed–and has now invited Nowitzki to throw out the first pitch at an as-yet-undecided game in Texas.
Dirk Nowitzki threw out of the ceremonial first pitch at a Rangers game back in June and they wanted the Mavericks star to do so again when the World Series moves to Texas, but MLB said no.
Apparently all postseason first-pitch assignments much be cleared by the commissioner’s office beforehand. According to Marc Stein of ESPN Dallas the Rangers “nominated” Nowitzki for the honor and MLB “nixed” him.
As for why they would turn down a beloved Texas athlete, Stein writes:
At least some hesitation stems from the idea that MLB executives want to stand behind their basketball counterparts and have notified the Rangers that they can’t bestow first-pitch honors on an NBA player.
Of course, MLB spokesperson Pat Courtney denied those claims, saying:
MLB absolutely denies that any part in selecting the first ball pitcher had anything to do with the current labor situation in the NBA. You want the club’s input in what makes sense for them and then we talk about what makes sense for the team and a good broad-base national appeal.
Nowitzki is one of the best, most popular NBA players and the reigning Finals MVP, regular watches and attends Rangers games, and is obviously a tremendously popular athlete in Texas, so the explanation/excuse that he doesn’t have “a good broad-base national appeal” seems absurd. On a national level he’s almost surely more well-known than every player involved in the World Series except for Albert Pujols.
Oh, and there’s also this: First pitch honors for Game 2 in St. Louis tomorrow night will go to an Ohio man named Tim Wisecup who won the Pepsi Max “Field of Dreams” contest by entering in a code from a bottle cap and being selected in a random drawing. Seriously.
If only Nowitzki had been entering himself into contests sponsored by MLB advertisers rather than wasting time winning an NBA championship he might have had a chance.