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Who needs a shirt when you can throw strikes

On the day he turned 70, Lou Brodersen was handed an out-of-the-box new baseball and showed the way to the pitcher’s mound at Tropicana Field with strict orders by his sons to reach home plate on the fly.

Sure beats a new shirt even if the new shirt is the right color and size.

“Yes,” Brodersen said. “Yes it does.”

For his 70th birthday, which was last Saturday, Brodersen got to throw out the first pitch before the Tampa Bay Rays-Florida Marlins game, which ended with Willy Aybar’s walk-off sac fly in the ninth inning and was followed by a Pat Benatar concert.

For Brodersen, the day could have ended right there with the strike he threw to Rays pitcher Jeff Niemann and it would have been a wonderful birthday.

“It was something,” he said. “Something to remember.”

Brodersen, who lives in Heritage Harbour with his wife, Patti, learned he would throw out the first pitch three weeks ago while having dinner with his son, Rob, and Rob’s wife, Tina.

The only downside was Lou’s son, Jeff, couldn’t make his dad’s big moment because of a business trip.

Actually, there was another downside to the news: The timing. Brodersen had three weeks prepare, which means he had three weeks to worry about the pitch.

He had a plan, though.

He called his next door neighbor, Matt Capps, who just happens to be the closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Capps offered Brodersen the usual advice: “Relax. Don’t be scared.”

Easy for Capps to say. His office is a pitcher’s mound. And he’s 25 years old.

Brodersen was allowed to practice at Pirate City, where he threw for 25 minutes on two occasions.

By the time he and his family reached the Trop on Saturday, Brodersen was ready. He was allowed to watch batting practice from a spot on the field next to the Rays dugout. He met Carlos Peña and David Price and Rays manager Joe Maddon.

Brodersen was given a Rays uniform. On the back were his last name and the No. 70, a nod to his age.

This wasn’t the first time Brodersen had stood on major league baseball field.

He spent 33 years as the sports editor at “The Hour” in Norwalk, CT., and also served as the chairman of the Associated Press Sports Editors Northeast chapter. When Brodersen retired in 1990, the Boston Red Sox honored him before a game.

Before the 1976 season, Brodersen found himself at the newly renovated Yankee Stadium for a meet-the-new-stadium media event. He found a baseball, walked to the mound and threw a pitch to a friend standing behind home plate. Brodersen was wearing a leisure suit that afternoon.

On Saturday he was wearing the shirt he did receive for his birthday — the Rays blue batting practice jersey, which was his to keep.

And Jeff did make it to the Trop.

Surprise!

Not long before the real first pitch from Rays lefty Scott Kazmir, Brodersen was introduced to the crowd. The mound was his, he was told. Brodersen was glad to see the 6-foot-9 Niemann squatting behind the plate. Tough to throw a wild pitch when your catcher has that kind of reach.

Just don’t bounce it, Brodersen told himself.

He didn’t. Niemann called it a strike.

Not bad for a 70-year-old arm.

“Being honored on the field by the Red Sox was, ‘Wow,’” Brodersen said. “But this topped that one.”

Roger Mooney, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2112.

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