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New football HOF member Lynch pitched in Erie

Photo courtesy of Greg Peterson In this June 1992 photo, John Lynch of the Erie Sailors delivers the first pitch in the history of the Florida Marlins organization to Jamestown leadoff hitter Kevin Northrup at Ainsworth Field in Erie, Pa.

Greg Peterson loves doing interviews. Fact is, he’s been doing so for decades, courtesy of a treasure-trove of videos he’s produced that date back decades.

“There’s a lot of crazy stories with all of this stuff,” the Lakewood resident said Monday afternoon.

So when news broke over the weekend that John Lynch had been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Peterson reached into his personal archives and found his latest gem.

From June 1992.

From a New York-Pennsylvania League baseball game, pitting Jamestown against Erie at Ainsworth Field.

And from a game in which the Sailors — a Class A affiliate of the Florida Marlins — had scheduled Lynch, a second-round draft pick out of Stanford University, to be the starting pitcher. Furthermore the season opener was made even more significant because it was the first in the Florida organization’s history.

“Russ Diethrick and I … got in the car and drove to Erie,” Peterson recalled. “We got there early and I prevailed on the powers-to-be to get a press pass.”

That allowed Peterson to occupy the same patch of grass during pregame ceremonies as the Marlins’ brass that included owner Wayne Huizenga; president Carl Barger; general manager Dave Dombrowski; and Jamestown native Dan Lunetta, director of minor league operations.

“I was taking pictures of all the ceremonial stuff,” Peterson said. “All of a sudden, the celebrities leave the field and I’m still on the field, because I was going to capture the ceremonial first pitch from the pitcher — John Lynch, the Stanford All-American.”

Literally standing a short distance behind the catcher, Peterson prepped for the moment.

There was one problem, though.

When Lynch, a right-hander, toed the rubber and delivered to the plate and Jamestown leadoff hitter Kevin Northrup, there was nothing ceremonial about it.

The umpire called it a strike.

“I’m looking around,” Peterson said, “and I’m the only one on the field. I’m like, ‘This isn’t good at all.’ I immediately shuffled off and found a place in one of the press boxes.”

But the momentarily embarrassed Peterson got the photo opportunity he wanted; Lynch eventually signed several prints during Erie’s stop in Jamestown later in the season; and then the local attorney sent them to Lunetta in Florida.

Five years later, while attending the 1997 World Series in South Florida with his father, Lyle, Peterson was in for a surprise.

“We were ushered to our seats (at the then Joe Robbie Stadium), which were near the field and we had to go by the locker room of the Marlins,” Peterson said. “There was a case of memorabilia of the early Marlins and, to my surprise, there was an 8 by 10 of my photo signed by John Lynch, which said, ‘First Pitch.'”

Peterson’s “pic” is part of franchise history.

And while Lynch will be immortalized for his professional accomplishments on the football field this summer, it was his place on a minor league pitcher’s mound on a June evening in 1992 that Peterson will remember most.

“I knew he’d been nominated (for the Hall of Fame) for several years,” Peterson said, “and I remember every year wanting him to get elected so I could tell his story. I had annual disappointment until (this weekend).”

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