SEATTLE - What better player to receive a bit of pre-first pitch advice from than Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez?
"Felix told me, pretty much, just throw it as hard as you can," said Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, moments before making his way to the mound for Tuesday night's ceremonial toss ahead of the Mariners game against the visiting New York Yankees.
After touring the clubhouse, meeting with the media, posing for photos and signing autographs for fans, Sherman, who was accompanied by his girlfriend Ashley Moss and their nearly four-month old son Rayden, took Felix's advice to heart. He told Mariners slugger Nelson Cruz, who was back to receive Sherman's pitch, "I'm throwing heat."
The result? Well, it wasn't quite King Felix-level heat, and to Sherman's surprise, his ball sailed a bit high and outside. But it made it to the plate, and Sherman was congratulated on a job well done as he made his way back to the dugout.
"It was a ball, though!" Sherman admitted. "I usually throw strikes."
Sherman's right. Tuesday night was Sherman's second time throwing the first pitch at Seattle's Safeco Field. His initial attempt came in April 2013, a throw that saw Sherman work out of the stretch from the bump, look in and get the sign from the catcher, and glance over his left shoulder to check the "runner" at first before winding up and delivering a strike to then-Mariners pitcher Brandon Maurer.
Tuesday evening's toss also afforded Sherman a chance to talk about his third annual celebrity softball game, set for July 19 at Safeco Field.
"I'm incredibly excited," Sherman said of next month's game, to be televised on KIRO 7. "I never thought it would grow into what it is now. We had a humble beginning at a 7,000-seat stadium out in [Tacoma's Cheney Stadium] and it's grown so much. We never thought we'd be at Safeco Field playing a softball game. I mean, who could imagine? The fans seem to enjoy it, the guys who participate in it seem to enjoy it. That's all you could really ask for."
In the past, the event has featured plenty of talent from the Seahawks and around the NFL, as well as other professional sports. Sherman promised a similar turnout in 2015, with a portion of the event's proceeds going to benefit his Blanket Coverage foundation, which provides school supplies and resources to students in low-income families.
"It's an important cause because I feel like knowledge is power," said the Compton, Calif. native Sherman, a Stanford graduate. "I think kids in the inner city have a better chance at having success and having successful careers and all aspects in life, it starts with education. I think the more we emphasize that the more we expose them to a better education, better tools for education, and a better chance they'll have at being successful.
"I'm really adamant about giving these kids a chance because I feel like a lot of kids drop out and unfortunately go down the wrong path because they just feel like they don't have the chance, they don't have the opportunity to be successful, and we're trying to change that."
Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman threw out the ceremonial first pitch ahead of Tuesday night's Seattle Mariners game against the New York Yankees.