Love this story by Jayson Stark of espn.com. One minute, Katherine Connors is relaxing in a hair salon in Iowa, the next minute she’s throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at a major league baseball game in Washington D.C.!
It was one of those tales that gave a whole new meaning to the expression “the beauty of baseball.”
It all started with [rookie pitching sensation] Stephen Strasburg feeling “discomfort” while he was warming up for his July 27 start for the Nationals.
Whereupon ever-erudite reliever Miguel Batista was forced to head for the mound instead and found himself getting booed by 40,000 people who hadn’t planned on turning their life savings over to StubHub to see Miguel Batista pitch.
Whereupon Batista, afterward, would utter the words that changed Katherine Connors’ life: “Imagine,” he said, “if you go to see Miss Universe, then you end up having Miss Iowa. You might get those kind of boos.” Uh-ohhh.
So the next day, 1,000 miles from the scene of the quote, Miss Iowa USA, Katherine Connors, was hanging out in a salon, getting her hair done, when the texts started.
“They said, ‘They’re talking about you on ESPN,'” Connors told Year in Review. “And I was like, ‘What?’ And they said, ‘There are pictures flashing up.’ And I said, ‘Oh my God. What pictures?'”
Little did Connors know her world had just done a big 180. One fateful quote led to a phone call of apology from Miguel Batista. And then an invitation from the Nationals to go to Washington and throw out the first pitch. And then an emergency pitching workout with a friend who used to pitch in high school, who quickly concluded: “It’s a lost cause.”
And then there she was, on a plane to D.C. And there she was, wearing a Nationals jersey with “MISS IOWA” on the back, actually warming up in the bullpen with Batista, Pudge Rodriguez and pitching coach Steve McCatty.
And minutes later, she was out there on the mound in Nationals Park, throwing what our Year in Review umpiring panel has decided was a clear-cut strike — even though, technically, it didn’t quite cross that object some umpiring panels know as home plate.
“I think I threw out my shoulder,” Connors told Year in Review. “That’s why my pitch went off to the right.”
Shockingly, the Nationals didn’t sign her immediately. But they might want to reconsider because, when Year in Review asked Connors which pitcher in baseball she’d compare herself to, that name, Strasburg, came to mind.
“Isn’t Strasburg the big rookie pitcher of the year now?” she asked us.
Oh, we said, he was definitely the talk of the country before he got hurt.
“Well,” she quipped right back, “I was the rookie pitcher of the year, and I was kind of the talk of the country for a little bit, too, right?”
OK, sold. Miss Iowa also told us she was thrilled by how fast all those Nationals fans who’d been booing Miguel Batista decided it wasn’t so bad if Miss Iowa showed up.
“It’s amazing, since all this, how many people in Washington are now Iowa fans,” she said.
“How can you tell?” Year in Review asked.
“Well,” she said, laughing, “there were signs that said, ‘We want Miss Universe.’ Then they crossed that out and put, ‘Nevermind. We want Miss Iowa.'”
She hasn’t been back to a ballpark since. But this is one beauty queen whose 15 minutes of fame has lasted for two entertaining months — all thanks to Batista.
“People keep asking me, ‘Aren’t you that girl from ESPN?'” Connors said. “I say, ‘Yeah, that’s me.'”
For now, we should report, there are no indications she’s about to replace Hannah Storm. But you never know — because Miss Iowa USA sure aced this talent competition. She managed to turn an innocent little diss into one of the coolest times of her life, all because she has that invaluable gift for laughing at herself at exactly the right time.
“You know, I’m giving up my crown in a month,” Connors told Year in Review. “And when people ask me, ‘What was the highlight of your year as Miss Iowa?’ I say, ‘Miguel Batista making fun of me.’ … I told him, ‘I’m having so much fun, you can make fun of me anytime.'”
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