The First Pitch

Comments at the 2009 Academic Convocation

This summer I had the rare opportunity to throw out the first pitch at the July 1st St. Louis Cardinals' game against the San Francisco Giants at Busch Stadium. What a thrill! A dream come true! Growing up in Nigeria, I didn't have the opportunity to play baseball. The days before, I practiced throwing from the mound across the street at the Webster Groves High School baseball field. As the big day got closer I began to day-dream of Albert Pujols catching my pitch. And so on July 1st on arrival at Busch Stadium I asked if Pujols was available. I was excited to hear that he was but only if I wanted to make a sizeable donation to his foundation. Let's just say deans don't make that much money so they found someone else to catch my pitch. I think he was one of the beer vendors who they paid to don a cardinals' uniform. He even signed the ball. I still have no idea who he was.

All that practice did help calm my nerves until I walked onto the field and quickly realized just how far 60 feet is, the distance from the pitchers' mound into the glove of the catcher. Somehow I was successful in throwing what is best described (I am told by my friends who know baseball) as a high - low knuckle ball which barely made it over home plate. My daughters called it a girly pitch!

There's a reason I'm telling you this story. My first pitch reminded me of the role of faculty at Webster University. Our primary role is to prepare our students to be ready to pitch, to be ready to engage the most challenging situations or the equivalent of facing an "Albert Pujols at the plate." We are preparing them to be resilient no matter what position they are playing on the field of life (whether it's at home or far away) and to not be intimidated by the challenges and uncertainties that life may bring. And when our nine innings are over, their success will not be measured by how many homeruns they hit or how many times they struck out. They will be measured by their contributions as team members in their chosen field and in the community in which they live. I am honored to be a member of the Webster team and I wish you all a fulfilling academic year.

Thank you.