Three of Middletown’s greatest athletes — representing three sports — were recognized before the Cincinnati Reds played the Atlanta Braves Monday night at Great American Ball Park.
Future NFL Hall of Famer Cris Carter and his older brother, Butch, the only Ohioan named Player of the Year and Coach of the Year in high school basketball, and Kayla Harrison, the first American to win a gold medal in judo at the Olympics, were honored.
Saying he didn’t leave all of his athletic ability on the football field, Carter, a 1984 MHS graduate, delivered a high strike to his brother in the ceremonial first pitch.
After catching the first pitch, Butch Carter, wearing a Wilson glove too small for his hands, said: “I survived.”
Carter’s wife, Melanie gave her husband simple advice: “Don’t embarrass the family. Do not do that.”
She reminded her husband that Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory became an Internet sensation when he delivered a wild first pitch to Eric Davis on Opening Day 2007. The ball hit the foot of umpire Sam Holbrook, who ejected Mallory before the contest even began.
Butch Carter said he was sure Cris would hit him with the ball. And that’s exactly what happened when the two stepped down into the tunnel near the Reds dugout to get warmed up. Butch Carter said his brother’s second pitch skipped and hit him below the stomach.
“He gets a chance to throw the ball at his older brother,” Butch said. “What do you think will happen?”
When Cris Carter, wearing blue jeans, Nike tennis shoes and a Reds uniform he was given by the team, stepped to the mound, he glanced toward the Reds dugout, then threw a pitch over the plate. The ball was given to his wife, who stuffed it into her purse.
Harrison was the honorary captain and when she was introduced to Reds manager Dusty Baker, he told her: “I wouldn’t mess with you girl.”
Carter, Harrison and Jerry Lucas, who led the Middies to a 76-game winning steak and consecutive state basketball championships, will be the featured speakers at the Pigskin-Roundball Spectacular tonight at the Manor House in Mason.
Before that, Carter will visit the schools he attended in Middletown, then appear at 3 p.m. at Barnitz Park, near Barnitz Stadium, for “Cris Carter Appreciation Day.” The field at the stadium will be named after Carter, who starred at Ohio State, then enjoyed a Hall of Fame career in the NFL, mostly with the Minnesota Vikings. He will be inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in Canton on Aug. 3.
The event at Barnitz Park is free and open to the public and will be held regardless of the weather.