FLUSHING MEADOWS, NEW YORK — FC Barcelona's summer tour in the United States got in a good, old-fashioned dose of Americana on Sunday when the club's former striker Thierry Henry threw out the first pitch at a game between the New York Mets and the Oakland Athletics at Citi Field in Queens.
It was yet another example of pro athletes from both sides of the Atlantic visiting foreign clubs, a phenomenon that helps bridge the culture gap between Europe and the United States and increases the exposure of the teams involved on both continents.
Upon arriving at Citi Field, Henry and another former Barça player, Juliano Belletti, were presented with their very own, personalized Mets jerseys, and had their photos taken in the press room before getting a tour of the clubhouse area and the tunnel leading out to the field.
Henry even got the chance to grab a bat from the Mets players' individual stashes. The Frenchman gripped the bat right above the knob, lifted his arms, and put forth a menacing stare for a gaggle of photographers jostling for position.
Minutes before the players were set to take the field for the 1.10pm ET start time, however, the skies opened and the rain came pouring down, forcing the Mets grounds crew to roll out the tarp, thus delaying Henry's first pitch some 45 minutes.
Mets shortstop José Reyes appeared in the tunnel to field a pair of questions in Spanish and English from Barça TV and fcbarcelona.com, while Henry and Belletti chatted soccer with Mets bench coach Dick Scott, signing a pair of baseballs in the process.
When the heavens cleared, and with the thundering roar of commercial jets taking off from nearby LaGuardia Airport every few minutes and drowning out the ambient sound of organ music and baseballs slapping into leather gloves, Henry–who played for Barça for three seasons and won two Liga titles, one Champions League, one Club World Cup, one Copa del Rey, one Spanish Super Cup, and one European Super Cup–toed the rubber, stared in at Mets catcher René Rivera, and heaved the day's ceremonial first pitch towards the plate. Rivera caught it in the upper part of the strike zone, jogged out to Henry, and handed him his newest souvenir.