The tale of Death Cab for Cutie performing at the Seattle Mariners’ home opener on Monday is actually an act in three parts, starring avowed baseball nut (and DCFC frontman) Ben Gibbard. It’s a story of soaring highs and crushing lows, plus amazing feats of skill. It’s such an epic adventure that we figured it would be best if Gibbard told it himself.
Here’s the first act, in which our intrepid hero embarrasses himself at a Mariners/ White Sox game in September 2008.
They asked me to throw out the first pitch, and, of course, I said yes. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I have a pretty good arm. I’m not like a 90-mph fastball kind of guy, but I can hit 70 on a radar gun. I hit 70 one time on a radar gun at one of those pitch-and-throw kind of things. … I have a pretty good arm for somebody who’s not a baseball player … so before the game, I’m down in the catacombs of Safeco Field, and they got a ball girl out there, and I’m throwing curves, I’m throwing sh–ty knucklers, I’m throwing from the full 60-feet-6 inches. … I’m just smoking it in there.
So I was like, “OK, I’m not going to try and throw it as hard as I can, but I don’t want to throw one of those lollipop first pitches.” So I go out there, and I’m on a mound, and there’s like 30,000 people out there, and also, I hadn’t thrown in, like, 10 minutes. … I’m thinking, “Maybe I’ll throw a four-seamer, just throw it right in there.” And then I start second-guessing my grips. I’m thinking, “Maybe I’ll throw a two-seamer instead.” And I threw to [Mariners pitcher] Ryan Rowland-Smith, and I threw it and it was low and outside. It just went to the backstop. … I felt like such a dumbass. So after, Ryan Rowland-Smith is signing the ball for me, and he’s like, “Throwing the heat, huh?” And I was so embarrassed.
And now, the second act, which also took place in 2008 and saw Gibbard redeem himself with a rather amazing act of dexterity:
In the spring of 2008, I went to a Mariners game with my mom. And a foul ball comes into the stands, and I catch it with my hat. I have the video to prove it. I’m not making this up. … The ball comes into the crowd … and I’m like, “Uh-oh, look out,” and I caught it with my hat. It was amazing. You think of that moment happening every time you go to a game, ever since you were a little kid. So I had our management contact the Mariners, so they could get me the footage, because I know no one would believe me. I have it on my phone to show people, because they will never believe me.
All of that led to up to last Monday, when Gibbard once again set foot on his field of dreams, to perform a medley of baseball-themed hits — John Fogerty’s “Centerfield” and a somber version of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” — joined by his Death Cab mates. We’re not going to lie to you, there was a lot riding on the performance — and Gibbard was understandably nervous.
I mean, [the Mariners] had been floating this idea of us performing since last year, and I always said I would do it. I’ve loved the team since I was a little kid. I got [former Mariners slugger] Alvin Davis’ autograph when I was, like, 9, when he was on the ferry. This was ingrained in who I am. So, yeah, I was kind of nervous. But we went out there and played, and it was great, man. It was sort of like all the things I like the most, aligning into one. Since it was opening day, it was a big production. There were fireworks, and they had set up a little stage behind home plate. We played, and it was pretty amazing. I would definitely do it again.
So there you go. Ultimate redemption. Dreams coming true. Who said baseball isn’t a magical game?