Mussina honored to throw season’s first pitch

Mike Mussina threw the first pitch of a Major League game 536 times in his career, but he thinks there may be even more pressure in making the toss that opens the Yankees’ 2011 campaign.

Mussina was invited by the Yankees to throw Thursday’s ceremonial first pitch at Yankee Stadium, set to receive a loud ovation from the crowd on hand to watch the Bombers begin their season against the Tigers.

“To be asked to come out here and do this, the first day of the season, that’s really cool,” Mussina said. “To have them think of me as part of this organization still, and part of the family of the New York Yankees, it’s really something special. I think it’s great.”

Mussina, 42, retired after winning 20 games for the Yankees in 2008, notching his 270th and final big league victory on the final day of the season in a doubleheader at Fenway Park.

Though Mussina began his career in 1991 with the Orioles and pitched for 10 seasons with Baltimore, he said that he felt immediately welcome with the Yankees.

“They’ve treated me like I’ve always been a Yankee from the first day,” said Mussina, who was 123-72 from 2001 through 2008 with New York.

Mussina was honored with the ‘Pride of the Yankees’ award at the team’s Welcome Home dinner on Wednesday in New York and has also been invited back to participate in the annual Old-Timers Day.

These days, Mussina said he spends most of his time shuttling his children around to sports games near his Montoursville, Pa. home, and claims to be busier in retirement than he was as a player. He also said he has no regrets about his decision to walk away as a 20-game winner.

Mussina does recognize, however, that his former teammates figure to give him a hard time if his first pitch isn’t up to big league snuff.

“Obviously I haven’t thrown a lot,” Mussina said. “I just want to get it somewhere near that ballpark someplace and get it on target.”

In other pre-game events, actress and singer Haley Swindal, the granddaughter of the late George M. Steinbrenner, will sing Thursday’s National Anthem. A giant flag will be unfurled by 75 West Point cadets, while the West Point Color Guard will present the colors.

During the seventh-inning stretch, Michael Minarik of the Broadway hit ‘Rock of Ages’ will perform “God Bless America.”

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