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NASA Hometown Heroes 2008: Astronaut Clay Anderson Receives the Royal Treatment
Astronaut Clay Anderson NASA astronaut Clay Anderson prepares to throw out the first pitch at the Kansas City Royals vs. Detroit Tigers game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. Photo credit: NASA
> View video of first pitch
With the roar of thousands of baseball fans, NASA astronaut Clay Anderson ran onto the field at Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals, and headed to the pitcher’s mound to throw out the first pitch of the game.

Anderson’s appearance in Kansas City, Mo., on May 15 was the kickoff of NASA’s Hometown Heroes 2008 Campaign. Throughout the summer, former International Space Station astronauts will journey back to their home states or regions to throw out the first pitch at Major League Baseball (MLB) games across the United States.

The campaign will showcase and celebrate the station’s 10th anniversary in orbit. In November of 1998, the first piece of station hardware was launched into low-Earth orbit, and now, after 25 successful missions, the orbiting outpost is nearly complete.

Prior to throwing out the first pitch for the Royals afternoon game, Anderson spent his morning sharing the story of his journey to become an astronaut and what his five-month stay aboard the station was like, both with the local media and thousands of students from the Kansas City area.

“I thought it was really cool to meet an astronaut,” said Megan Hansen, a fifth-grade student at Manor Hill Elementary School in Liberty, Mo. “I was really excited to get to meet someone who’s been in space. It was cool to hear everything he had to say about what he saw in space, how he had to sleep and other stuff. I had lots of fun.”

Astronaut Clay Anderson being interviewed NASA astronaut Clay Anderson being interviewed on KMBC-TV 9 in Kansas City, Mo. Photo credit: NASA
Hansen was the cameraperson for the Manor Hill Elementary video crew that interviewed Anderson at Kauffman Stadium early that morning before heading to class.

Anderson’s next early morning stop was a live interview on the field during WDAF-TV 4’s morning newscast. He then headed across town to KMBC-TV 9 to appear on that station’s morning newscast.

“You know, a lot of us are a little bit star struck, because I don’t believe we’ve met an astronaut before,” said KMBC news anchor Dion Lim.

Anderson then headed back to Kaufmann Stadium and joined NASA Education Specialist Dr. Ollie Bogden at home plate, along with the WDAF-TV 4 weather team for School Day at the K.

Showcased as the largest weather class in the world, School Day at the K is an interactive, educational program involving students, teachers and parents watching from the stands and the WDAF weather team on the field. A variety of weather-related experiments were conducted at home plate to explain the science behind weather as more than 20,000 attendees watched.

The entire program was broadcast live on WDAF to an estimated 1.6 million viewers in the Kansas City area. And like the International Space Station, School Day at the K is also celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Astronaut Clay Anderson signs autographs NASA astronaut Clay Anderson signing autographs for students. 22,000 students, teachers and parents attended WDAF’s School “Day at the K” weather program at Kauffman Stadium prior to the game. Photo credit: NASA
“We were thrilled to have astronaut Clay Anderson not only visit Kauffman Stadium but also play a big part in our 10th annual School Day at The K event,” said Megan Stock, the Royals’ coordinator of publicity. “His experiences as a NASA astronaut added a new aspect to FOX 4’s already successful weather program.”

“The icing on the cake for the 10th year anniversary was having astronaut Clay Anderson join us to help inspire the students to continue their studies in science and math,” Dr. Bogden said. “Clay did a great job of communicating to the students to do their best in everything they do, and that the possibilities of where they’ll go in life are endless.”

After the weather program and a quick interview with the Fox Sports Network, Anderson continued to inspire and engage both students and parents during an autograph session conducted outside the stadium. His backdrop was a 1:15 scale model of space shuttle Atlantis.

Anderson wrapped up this Hometown Heroes kickoff by throwing out the first pitch of the game between the Kansas City Royals and the Detroit Tigers, and then presented Royals’ General Manager Dayton Moore with a photo of Kansas City taken from the station.
Victor Scott
Johnson Space Center, Houston