At the age of 93, Donald Houck has finally made it to the big leagues.
“It’s an honor that’s been bestowed on me and I’m not sure I know why,” Houck said.
The Bellevue man doesn’t understand why he was chosen to throw out the first pitch before the Seattle Mariners took on the Kansas City Royals at Safeco Field.
He did have an idea, though.
“I won the war. I won World War II,” Houck joked.
The U.S. Army veteran served in Europe during one of World War II’s most critical moments: The Battle of the Bulge, when Adolf Hitler launched a surprise attack, a last ditch effort during the war’s final winter.
The veteran says he’s no hero. He considers himself only a survivor.
Like many men and women who return from war, Houck prefers not to recount details from battle.
“In my computer I have some writing that even my kids don’t get to see it until after I’m dead. There are some things in there are that I’m really not proud of, but things that had to be done,” Houck said.
Houck did not know if he would make it to the July 4th game.
“He said he wanted to go out and practice so he didn’t get booed,” Don’s grandson Jason Houck, a sergeant with the King County Sheriff’s Office, said.
When he took his grandfather out to throw the baseball around, what happened surprised him.
“It was like in slow motion. I could see him start to wobble and slowly start to fall over. All I was thinking was he’s going to break his hip. He’s going to break something. This is horrible,” Jason Houck said.
His grandfather broke a bone in his hand, and has a splint on his left hand and forearm. Luckily, he says it’s not his pitching arm.
“Oh no, no, that won’t bother me. I’ve got it all figured out now – overhand!” Houck said, explaining he was throwing a sidearm pitch when he fell during practice.
Besides, it would take a lot more to stop this vet from carrying out his duties on America’s Independence Day.
“It’s your time to shine,” his grandson told him before he walked onto the field to a cheering crowd.
And overhand it was for a one-skip strike.
“I was thinking, how do I get out of this? No, I had fun. It was fun walking out there and it was fun throwing the ball,” Houck said.
Next time, he plans to throw it harder, but for now.
“The fact that I got the ball there and I didn’t fall down,” he said, laughing.