Just A Reminder That Hugo Chavez Once Threw Out The First Pitch At Shea Stadium And Grew Up Dreaming Of Being A Pro Baseball Player

  • Glenn Davis

As much as anything else, I’m writing this so that all the time I spent yesterday reading Hugo Chavez obituaries and retrospectives in the wake of his death won’t look totally wasted, as far as job performance goes. The reaction, without passing judgment on it, was fascinating, ranging from this to this and everything in between. And it just so happened there was a sports component too:

In a 2009 interview with CNN’s Larry King, Chavez said he joined the military at age 17 to play baseball, but an injury cut short his career.

But his love of baseball lingered, and he found an outlet in Venezuela’s national team. Venezuela manager Luis Sojo recounted some of his World-Baseball-Classic-related interactions with Chavez:

Sojo added that the president was not above nitpicking over in-game strategy, remembering a game in which his team lost an early lead after a pitcher faltered in the fourth inning.

“He said, ‘how come you didn’t bring Francisco Rodriguez in?’ I said, ‘he’s the closer! I can’t pitch him in the fourth.'”

If you want to draw a parallel between that and his governing style, I’m not stopping you. But maybe the weirdest thing to look back on in hindsight: a newly-elected Chavez throwing out the first pitch at a game in 1999… at Shea Stadium.

Back then, he wasn’t the “devil”/”smells of sulfur” guy, so it wasn’t such an odd thing at the time. Now, though? Different story. The only thing to up the WTF factor would be Chavez receiving a Mets jersey with his name on the back like presidents get when championship teams visit the White House OH WAIT THAT HAPPENED TOO:

Incredibly, this was all the same night that Bobby Valentine wore his dugout disguise. Maybe that’s fitting for a night of epochal oddities: a publicity stunt so outlandish, even Hugo Chavez never did it.