NASA Hometown Heroes 2008: Dan Tani Visits the Chicago Cubs
To some, the chance to step on the infield or touch home plate at Wrigley Field is a lifelong dream. NASA astronaut Dan Tani not only got to step onto the 95-year-old field, but was given the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch during the Chicago Cub’s August 20 game against the Cincinnati Reds.
Tani’s appearance in Chicago marked the sixth stop of NASA’s Hometown Hero 2008 campaign. He is one of several astronauts returning to their home regions to spread knowledge about the importance of continuing space exploration. At each stop, the astronauts throw out the first pitch at a Major League Baseball (MLB) game and celebrate the 10th anniversary of the International Space Station.
Tani had an event-filled day that started at 6 a.m. He stopped by the ABC7 television studio in downtown Chicago and talked to Judy Hsu about his four month stay on the International Space Station.
“The whole experience was fantastic. I really felt like a resident up there. It felt like my home,” said Tani.
Just a few blocks away, Tani was greeted by the “Good Day Chicago” anchors at the FOX-TV studio. He answered questions about zero gravity, the future of the ISS, and how being an astronaut didn’t even cross his mind until after college.
“I actually didn’t dream of doing this when I was a kid. It wasn’t something I seriously thought about until I was almost 30,” said Tani.
After the early morning interviews, Tani headed to the Museum of Science and Industry where he participated in an “Earth Revealed” show. He helped present a program about the planets and answered questions about life on the ISS.
“The guests were so engaged and comfortable. They jumped right in the show, adding great commentary and answers to questions asked. When it was their turn to ask questions, there was no lack of insightful inquisitions. Everyone who wanted a picture with Dan or his autograph got one. The guests walked away feeling like they had just met and had an intimate conversation with an astronaut. It was truly a great experience – one our guests will not forget anytime soon,” said “Earth Revealed” presenter Melinda Curtis.
Finally came the big moment, throwing out the first pitch. Tani took pictures with family and friends while waiting on the infield. His time came to step on the pitchers mound. He threw a fast one right down the middle to the catcher.
After the early excitement, Tani got the opportunity to do some game commentary with WGN Radio. He took a seat with family and friends and watched as the Chicago Cubs took on the Cincinnati Reds.
The 7th inning stretch approached and Tani headed back up to the press box. He took part in a baseball tradition by singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” as 40,000 fans sang along.
Tani ended his night by doing a couple more interviews and watching the final innings of the game.
Johnson Space Center, Houston