CHICAGO – Boston Marathon bombing survivor Karen Rand threw out the honorary first pitch before Saturday's Chicago White Sox game against the Oakland Athletics, getting a standing ovation not only from the crowd, but from players on both benches.
Rand, who had her lower-left leg amputated after the incident and suffered major injuries to her right leg, made the pitch from a wheelchair just in front of the mound. White Sox pitcher Chirs Sale was the honorary catcher.
On April 15, Rand was standing near the finish line of the marathon waiting for boyfriend Kevin McWatters to complete the race when one of two blasts tore through the crowd. Rand was standing with friend Krystle Campbell, who was one of three people to die from their injuries.
While in the hospital recovering, Rand was visited by President Barack Obama, a meeting that ultimately led to Rand throwing out the first pitch Saturday.
"I just happened to be one of the people that (the President) came to see," Rand said. "He was great. He came in our room like he was an old neighbor and an old friend and really talked to everybody in the room and was really compassionate about the terrible thing that happened. We mentioned we were coming to Chicago and he said, 'When you are out there, we want to make sure you have a really nice trip.' So that's how it happened. They followed through and here we are."
Rand, a New England native, who is a lifelong Red Sox fan, said she won't be changing her team allegiances any time soon, but she was impressed with the hospitality shown by the White Sox. She spent most of her time before the game near the White Sox's on-deck circle meeting players from both teams, as well as White Sox staff.
One of her biggest thrills was meeting Oakland's Coco Crisp, a member of the Red Sox's 2007 championship team.
"I actually didn't expect this," Rand said. "This is overwhelming sitting here and being on this field and having people come over. It's been great. I'm really excited and it's been a fun day for us.
"I thought we'd be in the box and maybe people would wave. I didn't know what to expect but not this. This is amazing. We're being treated like royalty and we're really just humble, simple people, so it's really nice for us to be out here. We're really enjoying it."
Everybody in Rand's group, including McWatters, wore T-shirts that replicated the cover of the Chicago Tribune sports page the day after the bombings when all four logos of Boston's major sports teams were displayed.
Rand and her friends were well aware of the support not only in Boston, but all across the country, yet she still was impressed to see how she was received so far away from home.
"It's been really nice," Rand said. "Of course, we're from Boston, we love Red Sox stadium, and Fenway (Park) will always be our favorite, but this is great. This is beautiful. This is really nice and nice to be here."