Chivas' Zizzo throws out first pitch at Padres game

SD native gets honor in buildup to next week's ChivaClasico

SAN DIEGO – San Diego Padres closer Heath Bell has had an impressive season. The California native has thrown 79 strikeouts, boasts an ERA of just 1.70 and currently ranks second in all of Major League Baseball with 39 saves.

Get Microsoft Silverlight

Needless to say, impressing Bell on the pitchers mound is be a daunting task. But that’s what Chivas USA midfielder Sal Zizzo did at Tuesday night’s Padres-Dodgers contest at Petco Park, throwing out a ceremonial first pitch to Bell that prompted the Major Leaguer to admit, “I didn’t think you’d throw it that hard.”

“It’s exciting,” said Zizzo after throwing out the pitch. “I’m glad that I didn’t make a fool of myself. At first I was just going to throw it as hard as I could, but then I figured I would focus on just hitting whoever was catching it.”

Zizzo, a San Diego native, was invited by his hometown club to throw out the ceremonial pitch after it was announced that Chivas USA would play sister club Chivas de Guadalajara at the Padres’ Petco Park on Sept. 14. The 23-year-old was happy to oblige.

“I’m here to represent all the soccer players in the world – that we can throw a baseball,” said Zizzo, laughing. “Maybe they think we can’t, but I’ll show them. This is really exciting. I’ve liked the Padres forever and it’s really cool to be able to do this.”

Zizzo is no slouch on the diamond. He played four years of high school baseball in San Diego, earning All-CIF honors in his junior year – a season in which he lead the league in steals.

“Sal played baseball, so I knew he’d be fine,” said Jonathan Bornstein, who was also an invited guest of the Padres on Tuesday night. “I just told him not to bounce it. That’s what everyone told me.”

Bornstein threw out the ceremonial first pitch of his own hometown team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, on Mothers Day.

“It was an amazing experience,” the Chivas USA captain said. “People told me to prepare – they suggested that I go to a baseball mound and practice, but I figured I’d just wing it. It went well.”

As for the Padres themselves, they currently lead the National League West and look a good bet for a 2010 playoff appearance.

“I’ve liked the Padres since the beginning of the year when everyone else had them finishing last,” said Zizzo. “I saw them in preseason and I thought they had a good chance of winning it all. We’ll have to wait and see.”