The calm before the start of the Tampa Bay Rays’ game against the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday was interrupted by the voice of Inspiration Academy pitching coach Troy Mattes booming over the sound system inside Tropicana Field.
He was sharing praise for former Inspiration lefty Kevin Ewing, one of the most impressive pitchers the former major leaguer has worked with.
The video showing on the big screen in St. Petersburg was the same one the Tampa Bay Sports Commission used when presenting the one-handed pitcher the Freddie Solomon Moral Courage Award at the commission’s annual Sneaker Soiree earlier this summer. On Wednesday, it was used to announce Ewing’s walk to the mound. Donning a David Price jersey, the die-hard Tampa fan got to throw out the first pitch at the Trop before his favorite team hosted Price’s new one.
“It was great. Just walking out there and just being on that big league field, it was just really cool,” Ewing said. “Getting to talk to some of the guys, too, before the pitch and everything — it was just really, really cool.”
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Ewing jogged just in front of the mound — he wasn’t wearing cleats and didn’t want to take the chance that he may slip off the dirty in front of an MLB crowd — and quickly fired a high strike to Jacob Faria to a big cheer from the crowd.
It was great. Just walking out there and just being on that big league field, it was just really cool.
Kevin Ewing, former Inspiration Academy pitcher
Ewing wasn’t nervous even as his friends kept letting him know how much of a ribbing he’d get if he put one into the dirt. Despite being born without a fully formed right hand because of amniotic band constriction, Ewing has spent the past 10 years playing organized baseball and the past two playing with the Lions’ varsity team in Bradenton. The Sarasota native, who was twice cut by the junior varsity team at Sarasota, will pitch this coming season for Johnson University, a National Christian College Athletic Association program in Knoxville, Tenn.
“It was great. We went out for BP and I met with one of the PR guys out there, and he was like, ‘If you need anything let me know,’” Ewing said. “It was a lot of fun.”