Growing up in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, Nolan Thiessen dreamed of pitching on a Big League mound. The lead for Team Koe will get that chance but not entirely how he expected it. While in Toronto for the curling Players’ Championship, Thiessen will throw out the honorary first pitch for Monday's Blue Jays game.
“To throw out the first pitch is in its own a dream come true,” Thiessen told me via email. “It's not an actual game, but it's a Major League mound and I get to throw a pitch. It will be fun to be able to say I got the opportunity. Not many have had the chance.”
Finding success as a right-handed pitcher, Thiessen started his baseball career with Claiborne Christian High School in West Monroe, Louisiana, an experience he said was incredible coming from a small Canadian city. He then attended Vernon Junior College in Texas.
“Vernon College was my first bout with adversity. It helped me grow. By the end of the year, I was competing in the final game of the College World Series, an amazing experience and eye-opening to be able to really chase the dream.”
While Thiessen was then known for how hard he could throw a baseball, clocking 86 MPH with his fastball and fooling everyone with his 67 MPH change-up, he is now known for how accurately he can throw a curling stone.
“I actually started curling when I was 11 years old,” he added. “My parents played and I lived in a curling hotbed in Manitoba. Curling gave me something to do in the winter besides baseball! I just caught the bug.”
Thiessen has developed into an incredible curler and was recently the lead of the 2010 World Championship team.
“The 2010 Worlds was easily the pinnacle of my career so far,” Thiessen indicated. “Getting to represent my country and stand on the podium with gold and singing our anthem was hair-stand-up-on-your-neck-awesome.”
Thiessen indicated that there are similarities between curling and baseball, specifically pitching. “Standing on the mound you're the one who is controlling everything,” he said. “When you throw a [curling] rock, you are the one throwing and you get to control the outcome. Same process – you visualize and then execute.”
“My pitch is coming in hot,” Thiessen plans for the ceremonial first pitch. “I figure just let it fly cause that is always when I was most accurate. This is my one chance to stand on a mound in a Big League game, so I’ll rip it!”