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Intimidators and pitchers: a look at NASCAR and baseball

Houston Astros v Chicago Cubs

Houston Astros v Chicago Cubs

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It’s Easter Sunday and as is tradition, none of NASCAR’s three national series are in action.

That rule doesn’t apply to baseball.

Today is also Major League Baseball’s Opening Day, kicking off 162-game regular seasons for the league’s 30 teams.

But just because the auto racing world is silent today doesn’t mean the worlds of America’s pastime and NASCAR don’t intersect.

The above picture is of four-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon attempting to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at Wrigley Field on May 24, 2005. The Hendrick Motorsports driver also threw out the opening pitch of the Chicago Cubs’ 4-2 win over the Houston Astros.

Other drivers have also thrown out first pitches. Missouri-native Carl Edwards threw it out at a Kansas City Royals game last year with the Royals losing to the Tampa Bay Rays, 1-0. Kevin Harvick did so at a Yankees’ game in 2011 the week NASCAR raced at Watkins Glen International in New York. The Yankees beat the Angles, 6-5.

Michigan-native Brad Keselowski threw out a first pitch twice in 2013, once in Cincinnati and then later for his home town Detroit Tigers.

While the Tigers would fall to the Royals, 2-1, Keselowski was just glad his pitch didn’t eat dirt.

That same year Kurt Busch threw the opening pitch at a Colorado Rockies’ game in Denver, where Furniture Row Racing is headquartered.

Busch, an avid baseball fan, has thrown out first pitches at games in Chicago, Boston, Arizona, Milwaukee and Seattle. In 2011, Busch completed a personal quest to attend games at all 30 MLB stadiums, though new stadiums have opened in the years since.

“I don’t know what the initial trigger was to start it,” Busch told ESPN at the time. “It was like, ‘Hey, I can go to all these parks and accomplish something that is a personal goal in life.’ ”

The relationship between baseball and racing goes both ways.

Earlier this year, former Arizona Diamondback’s pitcher Randy Johnson was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, located in Cooperstown, N.Y.

A passion of Johnson’s is photography and it’s not unusual for the 2001 World Series champion to be seen at Phoenix International Raceway. He’s also dabbled in capturing images at NHRA drag racing events and other areas of motorsports.

But probably the coolest intersection of the two sports worlds comes in Kannapolis, N.C., also known as the hometown of Dale Earnhardt.

Kannapolis, located about 30 minutes north of Charlotte, is home to The Intimidators, an affiliate of the Chicago White Sox in the Class-A South Atlantic League.

Of course, the team gets its title from the nickname bestowed upon Earnhardt. The seven-time Sprint Cup champion bought a share of the team in November 2000 and the name was changed from the Piedmont Boll Weevils to The Intimidators.

Follow @DanielMcFadin