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Six Pack of Pop: Kentucky GM lets it rip at a Reds game

June 26, 2012, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com

Kentucky GM Simendinger lets it rip from mound at Cincinnati Reds game

Mark Simendinger, general manager at Kentucky Speedway, answers this week's six questions.

1. How was your recent experience of getting to throw the first pitch out at a Cincinnati Reds' game?

Simendinger: The Reds were playing the Pirates. The neat thing about throwing out the first pitch is that you also can choose who catches the first pitch. So my son [Tommy], who is 22, went with me. And of course like good people, we went and practiced in the driveway before we went over. A few days beforehand, we're practicing in the driveway and I said, 'Now are you going to crouch down like a catcher or are you going to stand up?' He said, 'I don't know. I hadn't thought about it.' So I said, 'Just stand up. You're not a real catcher. I'll throw it and hit you right in the chest. Don't worry about it.'

So we get to the Reds' game and go out on the field. And the gal who is charge of all their marketing comes over and says, 'Now don't be a baby. This is a bucket-list kind of thing. Give it a good throw. Don't just lob it in there.' And I said, 'Well, can I go all the way up on the rubber or not?' And she said sure, that I could go all the way to the top of the mound if I wanted.

Gapper may have big eyes, but he almost took a Mark Simendinger fastball to the head. (Getty Images)

2. Because you used to play a little baseball, did you not?

Simendinger: I played baseball years and years ago at Notre Dame. I was a third baseman.

3. So what happened next?

Simendinger: I turn around and get ready to throw -- and my son, who I thought was going to be standing up, is crouching down. And the mascot is over top of him.

4. The legendary Mr. Red?

Simendinger: No, it was not Mr. Red with the big baseball head. It was another mascot they have now called Gapper. And he's leaning over my son's left shoulder like he's the umpire, sort of crowding the inside part of the plate for a right-handed hitter.

Sixty feet, six inches never looked so far. I thought two things: I wasn't going to bounce it, and I didn't want to hit the screen. Those were my two goals.

So I throw this pitch, and it's kind of riding in a little bit. And it's not a strike. It's riding up and in and now it's heading right for Gapper's head. Luckily at the last minute, my son got out of his crouch and just got a glove on it to knock it down.

5. Did it scare Gapper?

Simendinger: Gapper comes out afterward and gives you a big hug for the fans and all that. And I'm sure this mascot is not supposed to talk. But he goes, 'Hey, great pitch, man. I'm just glad that kid got a glove on it because that thing was going to hit me right between the eyes!

And I'm just thinking, 'Can you imagine how often they would have played that on SportsCenter if I had caught that mascot right in the head?' But afterward I got some good cred when Marty Brennaman, the Reds' Hall of Fame [radio] announcer said he liked the velocity on the pitch. So I brought a little heat. I threw it pretty good and I didn't skull the mascot.

6. That sounds like an experience you'll never forget ... or that others in your family will never let you forget, right?

Simendinger: I'm supposed to get a DVD of it any day now. I look forward to it. I'm sure that's something we'll play at our next family reunion, where it's bound to get a lot of laughs.