Elated Niehaus throws out first pitch

Elated Niehaus throws out first pitch

SEATTLE -- The accolades keep coming for Hall of Fame announcer Dave Niehaus.

"I'm not sure my feet have hit the ground yet," the longtime voice of the Mariners said before standing on the mound at Safeco Field on Monday afternoon to throw the ceremonial first pitch, which he bounced to the plate.

The 73-year-old Niehaus, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown on July 27 as the 32nd Ford C. Frick Award recipient, trails only Alvin Davis on the all-time list of first-pitch throwers.

It probably is a good thing that there never has been a batter waiting for one of Niehaus's pitches. Judging from the velocity generated and lack of movement, many of his pitches would "Fly, fly away!"

The congratulatory messages have flowed continuously since Feb. 19, the day Niehaus celebrated a birthday in the best possible way -- becoming a Hall of Famer.

His autograph now includes the notation: "HOF, '08."

Almost four months from now, Niehaus will be in Cooperstown for the ultimate honor.

"I have thought about what I'm going to say and have a million things on my mind," he said of his induction speech. "Without a doubt, it will be emotional. I don't want to leave anybody out, but I can't take up all my time thanking people."

He has a July 11 copy deadline.

A big league announcer since 1969, Niehaus still never has been to Cooperstown, but that will change on May 24 as a participant in a "Faces of the Game" symposium that had been scheduled before he won the Ford C. Frick Award.

The Mariners are playing a three-game series against the Yankees that weekend, and he'll miss the Saturday afternoon game -- just the 83rd game he has missed during his 31-year career with Seattle.

"It will be like a Christian going to Church of Nativity," he said.

And if someone is needed to throw out the first prayer, Niehaus would be available.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.