Olympic gold medalist Helen Maroulis threw first pitch at IronBirds game Thursday night. (Randy McRoberts / BSMG)
Less than a month ago, Helen Maroulis, a 24-year old native of Rockville, was winning an Olympic gold medal in women's wrestling in Rio.
On Thursday night, Maroulis was throwing out a first pitch at Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium prior to the Aberdeen IronBirds-Brooklyn Cyclones New York-Penn League baseball game.
"It felt incredible, but you know what, I'm more happy about the lessons I got beforehand," Maroulis said. "No one saw that, but Cal is awesome, so I don't know if I would have gotten that to home plate without him."
Having warmed up in the bullpen a little, Maroulis and Cal Ripken Jr., the catcher, warmed up with just a few more throws before Maroulis went to the mound and onto the rubber. The first throw was a wee bit wide and short and Ripken quickly tossed the ball back and had Maroulis try again.
"If Cal's throwing you the ball back, you better get it right the second time," Maroulis said. "I was going for broke at that point."
Going for broke is something Maroulis is likely familiar with, competing in women's wrestling at the world level. Maroulis beat Saori Yoshida, 4-1, to win the gold medal. It is the first gold medal ever won by a United States woman wrestler.
Yoshida was the most decorated freestyle wrestler of all time, winning gold medals in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
"Obviously, I'm gonna feel most comfortable on a wrestling mat, but I think habits carry over," Maroulis said. "I always have nerves before I wrestle, I had a lot of nerves before this, so obviously there's a lot of uncomfortableness to this because it's new, but it's a fun challenge."
"No and no," Ripken said in reference to catching a first pitch from a gold medal Olympian and woman wrestler. "I have not caught a first pitch from a gold medalist – the gold medal was pretty cool by the way. It's nerve-wracking going out on the field and throw, if it's not what you do. We practiced down here in the bullpen and we measured it off down there to see if she could do it and she took it all the way to the 60 feet. I didn't tell her about the slope of the mound, it kind of messed her up the first time so we had to have a take two."
Ripken also said that, yes, he would trade a gold glove for a gold medal.
The night could not be complete without a true Maryland tradition – steamed crabs. Maroulis and Ripken took turns showing the other how to crack a crab. Both were pretty good.