Marine Cpl. Nicholas Kimmel lost both legs and his left arm in an explosion during his second tour in Iraq– but that didn’t stop him from throwing one right over the plate to start off the Detroit Tigers-San Francisco Giants Game 2.
Kimmel, a high school baseball star prior to enlisting in the Marine Corps, told USA TODAY that the whole experience was “like a dream.” Cpl. Kimmel shared the mound with fellow veteran and former Giants Hall of Fame outfielder Willie Mays, who rubbed the ball up with dirt and then signed it for the former Marine.
Kimmel was at the game as part of the MLB’s Welcome Back Veterans program, an initiative that seeks to pay tribute to those who have served in the U.S. military. The program was started in 2008 and has since raised and donated more than $13 million to veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Another initiative, Strikeouts for Troops, was started in 2005 by San Francisco Giants pitcher Barry Zito and donates money for every strikeout that Zito and several other MLB pitchers throw throughout the season. Proceeds go toward helping wounded soldiers at U.S. hospitals. For Kimmel, the program allows him to enjoy season tickets to San Diego Padres games as he undergoes treatment at the Navy Medical Center in the city.
Of the MLB initiatives, Commissioner Bud Selig said, “I regard this as a privilege for us, to be able to do something for people and attract the kind of attention that they richly, richly deserve.”