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Matthew Rogers nails his 'first pitch' before sellout crowd at Reds game

Three Chopt owner Matthew Rogers threw out the first pitch and served as honorary team captain at a Cincinnati Reds game on Sunday. Three Chopt owner Matthew Rogers threw out the first pitch and served as honorary team captain at a Cincinnati Reds game on Sunday.

Matthew Rogers got another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on the field with his beloved Cincinnati Reds on Sunday.

The owner of Three Chopt Sandwich Shoppe downtown got to know Reds owner Bob Castellini when he used to eat lunch at the shop with Tom Fazio, the renowned golf course designer who lived in Laurel Park at the time. Rogers’s souvenir jerseys and encyclopedic knowledge of Reds history impressed Castellini, who invited him to sing the national anthem to open a game in 2019. That season, Rogers formed a trio of himself, alarm company owner Steve Johnson and Philip Wiehe, a retired Episcopal priest and fellow parishioner at St. James Episcopal Church. He’s since sang the “Star-Spangled Banner” for the Reds solo two more times.
“In honor my father, who took me to a game at Crosby Field and changed my life, I buy a hundred tickets for the Boys and Girls Club every time I sing, along with $15 in food,” he said. “The owner thinks that that is just fantastic.”
When he decided to buy tickets to Sunday’s Hall of Fame game, he thought maybe he’d sing again.
“Johnny Bench and Pete Rose are gonna be there,” he said last week before his trip to Cincinnati. “And I called Mr. Fazio and asked him if he could ask the owner — because that’s his best friend — if I could sing because I’m going to go to the game. The owner’s secretary called me back in an hour and said, ‘We have a 25-member choir,’ and said, ‘Would you throw out the first pitch and be our team captain,’ and I said, ‘Of course I will.’”

“My dear baseball coach in high school was just rolling over because I wasn’t that good at throwing,” he said. “I’m gonna make sure that nobody’s behind the catcher. There’s an old saying in baseball that he throws so slow that you could time it with a calendar.”
On Sunday afternoon, he jogged out to the mound, got set and turned the ball loose. It sailed in the air all the way to the catcher, exactly as Rogers had hoped. His high school coach would have beamed.
“There might be a few that said it wasn’t a strike but it was definitely caught” by the catcher, as he hoped it would be. “For me, it was a good accomplishment. I just didn't want to bounce it or throw it over the catcher’s head. The umpire might have called it a strike because our manager got thrown out of the game in the second inning for arguing the inconsistency of the strike zone that day.”
Rogers invited a close and fellow Reds fan from Hendersonville, who brought his 10-year-old grandson, Brandon. The boy got to take the lineup card out and meet the team owner. “He was thrilled,” Rogers said. “Making somebody else’s lifetime dream come true is a wonderful accomplishment right there. We got to meet Johnny Bench and Tony Perez. We got great pictures. We all had a great day.”
Unfortunately for Rogers and the rest of the home crowd, the Reds lost the game to the Milwaukee Brewers, who now lead Cincinnati by two games in the National League’s Central Division. An otherwise perfect day ended well when Rogers and his guests attended the team’s annual Hall of Fame Dinner.
“We got to listen to some very inspirational stories about their lives and growing up and then playing for the Reds,” he said. “Lots of VIPs there. That was a special evening.”

Singing the national anthem three times, serving as honorary team captain and throwing out the first pitch in front of a sellout crowd in a crucial game with a division rival was not even Rogers’s last wish when it comes to his beloved baseball club.
“The next thing that I’m going to ask the Reds to do is, when I turn 65 (next year), to draft me for a day and then release me,” he said.