Sep 19, 2013, 11:22 AM EDT
What if I told you that you could cross off something on your bucket list when you are still in college? Well Jeff Costello did just that.
Costello, the senior captain of the Notre Dame hockey team, was given the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park on Aug. 30, to celebrate the Irish playing in Frozen Fenway against Boston College and joining Hockey East in the 2013-14 season.
Costello first learned that he possibly could throw out the first pitch at Fenway Park from Irish head coach Jeff Jackson as Notre Dame summer school was ending in late July.
“When Coach Jackson told me I just started laughing,” Costello said while chuckling. “The thought of me throwing out the first pitch had never crossed my mind. The worst part was that I was so excited about it, yet I couldn’t tell anyone. It was eating away at me.”
Hailing from Milwaukee, Wis., Costello was a Milwaukee Brewers fan growing up. He was a big baseball fan throughout his childhood before he started to become more focused on hockey, yet his love for the game never waned.
Spending many nights at the ballpark with his family as a child, Costello was excited to tell them about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“When I told my family, they were just in disbelief,” Costello said.
When Costello began to think about throwing the first pitch at Fenway Park doubts started creeping into his head.
“The first thing I thought of was the possibility of getting on ESPN Sportscenter’s Not Top Ten list if the pitch went badly,” Costello remarked. “Recently, there have been some amazing first pitches with ballerinas or bad ones with people throwing it right into the dirt. I just wanted to be somewhere in between.”
Fortunately for Costello, Hockey East engagements kept him busy most of the day, yet he couldn’t get his mind off of what he was about to tackle that night.
“The anticipation just kept building throughout the day,” said Costello. “Everyone I ran into that day that had experiences in throwing out the first pitch remarked on how their pitch didn’t go so well. That was making me even more nervous.”
Throughout the day Costello kept receiving the same simple advice from everyone he met, “get it over the plate and don’t bounce it.”
As the time was inching closer to his date with destiny, Costello looked towards Coach Jackson to help calm him down. Luckily Coach Jackson knew exactly what to do.
“Coach Jackson knew I was a little nervous before the pitch,” Costello said matter-of-factly. “He was trying to distract me by talking about anything besides the pitch. We talked about the upcoming season, school, whatever, to get my mind off what I was about to do. I thank him for that.”
Albeit he was around the baseball diamond a lot as a child, throwing a baseball isn’t as second nature to Costello as much a snapping off a wrister anymore.
“It’s surprising on how you can forget something so simple like throwing a baseball when you are on that stage,” chided Costello. “But luckily I didn’t bounce it.”
In retrospect, Costello was very thankful for the opportunity that Hockey East and Notre Dame provided him on Aug. 30. After the pitch left his hand and popped the catcher’s mitt, Costello and Coach Jackson turned their sights to the upcoming season, Costello’s last in an Irish hockey sweater.
“We are really excited to play in Hockey East,” Costello said. “This will be a great opportunity to play in some new rinks and in front of some hostile crowds. We are trying to come in with a chip on our shoulders and prove we belong.”
The Irish captain will return to the same field he threw his pitch on Jan. 4 when when he laces up his skates to take on Boston College. When that day comes, things will be back to normal for the senior left wing. He will be back in his comfort zone – with a stick in his hand and ice under his feet.
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