Eddie Johnson saw the crowd of 53,679 at CenturyLink Field on Saturday night and was in his element. At the drop of a hat he could have stepped on the field to play 90 minutes.
However, on Sunday afternoon across the street at Safeco Field, he was nervous. There were 43,389 in the stands as the Mariners hosted the New York Yankees and the Sounders FC forward was there to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
“I get paid to kick a ball. I don’t get paid to throw a ball over the plate. That’s a lot farther than it looks. But big players step up in big moments,” he laughed.
Flanked by US National Team compatriots Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey, Johnson was honored before the game in advance of the US hosting Panama in a World Cup qualifying match at CenturyLink Field on Tuesday. It will be the first World Cup qualifier to be played in Seattle since 1976.
Johnson joked in the minutes before his big moment that he was going to lob the ball in just to make sure that he got it over the plate. However, Howard and Dempsey convinced him otherwise.
“Timmy changed my mind. Clint made me feel a lot more calm,” Johnson smiled. “Timmy told me to gun it and Clint told me to get a good speed but to control it.”
Donning a personalized Mariners jersey with his name and the number 7 on the back, Johnson strode to the mound and shared in the applause with this US teammates before firing his pitch over the plate to Mariners catcher Brandon Bantz and got one last ovation from the crowd.
“It was unbelievable. The sports fans here in Seattle are so giving and loyal to their players and the reception we got out here was breathtaking,” Johnson said. “It was special for me for Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard to be here too. For them to be here in my home town and be able to share that moment with all those fans, it was priceless.”