WASHINGTON – Turns out Miss Iowa really can pitch.
Pageant winner Katherine Connors threw out the ceremonial first toss before Friday night's game between the Phillies and the Nationals. Her catcher: Washington reliever Miguel Batista, who recently made a comment about Miss Iowa as part of a self-effacing joke.
"I love it. I think it's hilarious," Connors said with a smile shortly after arriving at Nationals Park on Friday afternoon.
Wearing a red Nationals jersey and a Miss Iowa sash, the right-handed Connors heaved a pitch high and outside to Batista, then posed with him for pictures. Earlier, she received a floral arrangement from Batista during an on-field interview broadcast on the center-field video board.
Connors ignored a suggestion — it wasn't clear from whom — that she wear high heels and a swimsuit to make the ceremonial toss. And she was worried about her form, since she's never played baseball.
"They wanted me to throw in heels, but I was like, 'I'm going to break my neck or my ankle or something,'" she said. "I'm terrible, so we'll see how it goes."
Batista created an unintentional furor on Tuesday night, when the 39-year-old journeyman was called upon to replace injured star Stephen Strasburg at the last minute. Most of the 40,000 fans in the ballpark began booing when the change was announced.
"Imagine," Batista said after the game, "if you go there to see Miss Universe, and you end up having Miss Iowa — you might get those kind of boos."
Connors was sitting in a beauty salon in Marion, Iowa, about an hour away from her hometown of Bettendorf, undergoing a five-hour process of having hair extensions integrated into her brunette mane when her cell phone started buzzing.
"I got a text message from a friend while I was getting my hair done and he said, 'A pitcher's talking about you right now on ESPN and now you're getting compared to Miss Universe,'" Connors said. "I was like, 'What is going on?'"
Batista's comment didn't sit well with some of her Iowa brethren, who claim former President Ronald Reagan among their favorite sons.
"A lot of people are mad about it because somebody's talking smack about Iowa," Connors said. "You do not talk smack to an Iowan."
On Wednesday, Batista sent flowers and made a phone call to apologize to Connors, and the Nationals invited the pageant winner to participate in the first-pitch ceremony, where she shared duties with a guy dressed as rum pitchman Captain Morgan.
Batista likewise has been invited by organizers of the Miss Iowa USA pageant to be a judge.
Connors also issued her own challenge to Batista: "I told him I can throw a pitch or two. The question is, can he walk in my bikini in high heels."