Portune says he'll pitch well or not at all
Here's what Portune says about being asked to throw the first pitch:
"It’s very exciting, it’s a great honor," Portune said. "I pledge to do it well or not do it at all. It’s a good thing. It’s a neat thing."
He said Bob Castellini asked him to throw the first pitch "some time" ago but Portune kept it a secret until the Reds were ready to announce it.
He says he's not sure why he was asked but guesses it might have been one of the following reasons:
1) Portune is president of the county commission. The county commission oversaw the construction of the Great American Ball Park which was built on time and under budget.
2) Also, Portune has been an important player in getting The Banks riverfront development moving. Groundbreaking is set April 2. Castellini is head of the Banks Working Group and he, too, has wanted to get it done more than anyone. So he surely appreciates Portune's help.
3) Portune and Castellini have gotten to know each other pretty well in the past year and Castellini respects the way Portune has handled his disability, Portune said. "I don’t complain about it or draw attention to it. I just go about my work and don’t let it interfere with anything I try to do," Portune said. "Just that whole not letting it define you. He's seemed really impressed by it."
Portune was quite athletic in high school and college. He played knothole and baseball through his sophomore year in high school, then switched to football, track and cross country in college. He was even inducted into his college hall of fame for sports, he said.
"The arm is still good," Portune said. But he has other challenges now. Five years ago tumors on his spine paralyzed him from the chest down. Although he has progressed better than expected, graduating in 2006 from a wheelchair to a walker, he's not sure what kind of impact it will have on his ability to get one over the plate.
"I still have a more pronounced deficit in feeling in my left leg and very pronounced problems in my abdomen and back. I’m a right handed thrower, so the left leg is your lead leg and support leg when you through so having problems there, that eliminates my ability to step intio the pitch. With lower back and abdomen deficit, you need those areas," he said. "It (the pitch) will be all-arm for me. Which makes it much more difficult to do. "
Portune said he plans to get out to Great American Ball Park and practice to make sure he can do it.
"I recognize its important to do this right or not do it at all. I will practice and work out to make sure it works out."