Throwing out the first pitch at a major league baseball game is no minor thing. Ask anyone who has delivered the unofficial start with family, friends and a stadium full of fans around them. Presidents. Entertainers. Former players. Hall of Famers. Adults and children alike.
Ask anyone who has had a hand in making such an experience possible. Namely Associated’s Senior Vice President and Senior Relationship Manager Edward Chidiac; his Northwestern Mutual client Karen Molloy; and Northwestern’s Scott and Aaron Kraus, who happen to be brothers.
This is the team that put the Kraus’ mother Bonnie on the mound at Miller Park September 29th, just before the Brewers’ home game against the Houston Astros.
And make no mistake. Mrs. Kraus did take to the mound, top and center, unlike some ceremonial first pitchers who simply feel more comfortable throwing from down on the front edge or even a little closer to home plate. A Brewers fan from the time of the Crews’ arrival in Milwaukee, Mrs. Kraus without a doubt wanted to make the most of her treasured experience.
According to all who helped from the bullpen, so to speak, this is the perfect example of how a truly winning situation can result from business and community teamwork, including, in this case, the generosity of the Brewers organization. Essentially, the sequence of events that put Mrs. Kraus on the mound can be likened to a perfectly executed triple play.
When the first pitch opportunity became available to Associated as a Brewers sponsor, Chadiac fielded it. He then sent it to Molloy, who serves as a vice president and treasurer for Northwestern. Not in a position to throw out the first pitch herself because of a shoulder injury, ironically enough, Molloy, in turn, and with Chadiac’s nod of approval, launched the opportunity in a Northwestern auction benefiting United Way. Molloy made it part of a Brewers package with tickets and memorabilia as well. Immediately, the first pitch prize caught the attention of Scott, a Northwestern business architect, and Aaron, a technical architect. Together with a third brother, they went through some “frenzied bidding” to come up clutch with the Brewers package and put their mother on the mound.
Chadiac describes the scenario as a remarkable team effort in terms of various organizations and individuals not only stepping up and working together but honoring and appreciating respective interests and passions. This would include those of Mrs. Kraus and her sons.
As Scott explained, “Over the last years, we’ve had a couple of health scares with our mother. She is healthy right now, but these were wake up calls for us. They made us think about being even more appreciative of our mother and everyone in our family. We decided to try to do more together and to do special things whenever possible.
“When the first pitch came up for bid in the auction,” he continued, “we knew we had to try for it. Our mother has been a Brewers’ fan since the team came to Milwaukee in 1972. She is retired now, but worked as a third shift nurse. When we were young, one of the things she would do is take us to day games. Today, she still goes with her friends.”
Noting that his mother has collected Brewers’ memorabilia over the years, including a brick from the old County Stadium, Scott said, his mother now has the best memory possible.
In order to make the memory extra special and include as many family members as possible as well as his mothers’ closest friends, additional tickets were added to the original number in the basket thanks to the Brewers and the efforts of all involved, Scott said.
“The Brewers were wonderful to my mother and all of us,” he said. “We had a nice tailgate before the game. When it came time for my mother to throw out the pitch, the Brewers’ moved us from our seats, which were great, down into the front row behind home plate.
“They gave a certificate to one of my nephews who had never been to a game before. And the catcher, Carpenter, walked up to greet my mother and handed her the ball after he had it.”
And how was the pitch? Well, not bad. In fact, pretty good, according to Scott and even a video replay of Mrs. Kraus, a right hander, in action. “It was a little high and to the left. She threw it so hard, and she threw it underhand, and hung on to it a little too long, so it went left. But she was happy,” he said, noting that the Brewers won on the 29th, making the day even better.
And where is the ball today? In a baseball display case presented to Mrs. Kraus by the Brewers and now part of her treasure trove of memorabilia and memories, thanks to a collective Hall of Fame effort by Associated, Northwestern and the Crew.
Bonnie Kraus throws out the first pitch at Miller Park on September 29.