Tonight, Jim Klein will be throwing out the first pitch at U.S. Cellular Field for the White Sox vs. Detroit Tigers game, selected as a veteran and first-responder in honor of the anniversary of 9/11.
Klein’s a marine who served in Vietnam and came home with 25 medals.
He’s also a retired Forest Park firefighter who served for 22 years. He’s lived in town for almost 31 years.
“Matt Sullivan at Doc Ryan’s asked me if I’d do it. He told me they had been approached to find a veteran who might qualify,” said Klein on his way to Doc Ryan’s Monday night to gather with his brother Joe and Dan Steinbeck, an old college buddy from Melrose Park.
“They put my name in and I was selected. It caught me off guard, to tell the truth.”
Klein said he was retired already when the 9/11 attacks occurred. “It was terrible. Breathtaking.”
His son Patrick, now in college, was a youngster at the time. “He told me he was proud of me that I was a fireman and a Marine, and that I’d helped protect the country and kept the town safe.”
Klein and son travelled to New York City in 2005 to see the ruins of the Twin Towers and pay their respects. “We saw the remains of the buildings and memorial while it was being built. I was proud to have seen it.”
Klein pitched for his college baseball team. He worked as a Forest Park firefighter for over two decades. He even appeared on the front page of the Forest Park Review Aug. 26, 1987 after rescuing 17-month-old Krystal Dolley from a fire in the 300 block of Lathrop.
To get ready for the big leagues, Klein warmed up his arm all week by playing catch on Hannah Street with his Little League neighbor Dylan Bartlett, age 11, who got to visit Wrigley Field this year after winning the Major League Baseball “Pitch, Hit and Run,” regional championship. Dylan’s a White Sox fan himself, even though he got to visit Cubs territory over Memorial Day weekend.
The group heads to the ballpark early to be shown around, and Klein said it’s no big deal.
“I’ve done a lot of things in my life, so I’m not nervous.”