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First Pitch at Fenway Highlights Memorable Comeback for Meghan Duggan

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Following in the proud legacies of Katie King, Tara Mounsey, Stephanie O’Sullivan and Gretchen Ulion, Meghan Duggan is one of the modern day women’s hockey heroes from New England. Hailing from Danvers, Massachusetts, her hockey resume is the envy of players the world over. 

In the last 12 months, Duggan has gone from winning a Clarkson Cup with the Boston Blades to earning gold at the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds to a podium finish at the 2014 Winter Games. 

Perhaps the most impressive fact is that Duggan staged a heroic and remarkable comeback after nearly having her career sidelined by a concussion. Unable to play for nearly one year, the opportunity to continue her hockey heroics was in serious doubt. The severity of her woes was such that things others take for granted, such as reading, eating and watching television became overwhelming. 

Checking into the Life Functional Neurology Center in Georgia represented the turning point for Duggan. A series of neurological therapies helped Duggan return to the ice in February 2013, in time for the stretch run of the Boston Blades march to their first-ever Clarkson Cup. As the Cup victory also signified the final games for some Blades members, including team captain and former Team USA member Caitlin Cahow.

While Duggan’s comeback was one of the feel-good moments for a proud Blades franchise, it was also testament to her character and dedication to the game and her teammates. In an era where female athletes are helping to challenge the cultural norm, Duggan solidified her standing as a role model for young women.

“In anything that I do, I hope to provide inspiration for young female athletes. Battling a serious concussion was a major challenge in my life and I learned so much about myself as I grew through the entire process. I love to share that story with anyone who wants to open their ears to it. When I speak to young female athletes, I use it as an example of adversity.”

Such adversity was recognized when Duggan was named as the captain for the US contingent heading into the 2014 Winter Games. In addition, her courage was recognized by the popular women’s magazine Cosmopolitan, honoring her as the toughest female athlete heading into the Games.

“Life is tough, and we are all going to hit a wall at some point. That was certainly a wall that I hit, but what is important and inspiring from that story is how I came out on the other side. If I can inspire young athletes to fight through adversity and learn things about themselves through that adversity that will help them grow, than that is exactly what I want to do!”

Although the offseason now looms for Duggan and her teammates, there was one last hurrah after the snow thawed and the thoughts of sports fans turned to the diamond. Along with a group of fellow athletes raised in New England that competed in the Games, Duggan was recognized prior to a Boston Red Sox baseball contest at the famed Fenway Park. 

Of all the athletes involved, Duggan was given the honor of participating in the prestigious first pitch ceremony prior to the April 25 contest between the eternal rivals, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. For any baseball aficionado, the opportunity to step onto the mound of a baseball diamond and launch the first pitch is a dream come true. Duggan has had the chance to live that dream more than once. 

“Fenway Park is a special place, a historic ballpark admired by people all over the globe. I try to make sure to stop and really take in the time I get to spend there, and never take those amazing moments for granted. I am so proud to be from Massachusetts, and I feel extremely lucky to have had some of the incredible experiences I’ve had, like throwing out the first pitch at Fenway, twice.” 

Of note, the April 25th experience marked the fourth time in her career that she was on the hallowed grounds of Fenway. In 2010, Duggan got to experience Fenway in two unique ways. Prior to the Boston Bruins taking part in a New Year’s Day match at Fenway Park, Duggan and the rest of the US National Women’s Team were given the privilege of taking to the ice in an outdoor practice. 

That once in a lifetime opportunity was complemented a few months later by the chance to soak in the atmosphere of the Red Sox and their faithful fans. On April 20, 2010, Duggan and several of her teammates from Team USA that were raised in New England (such as Kacey Bellamy, Julie Chu and Erika Lawler among others) donned their hockey jerseys and graced the field for a first pitch ceremony. That event signified the first time that Duggan participated in the first pitch. As a side note, the Red Sox would prevail in a 7-6 victory against the Texas Rangers.  

Following the Blades’ Clarkson Cup championship in 2013, the Red Sox showed their support for women’s hockey by inviting the black and gold for a pregame ceremony on May 9. Despite the rain that soaked the hallowed playing field, the generous gesture from the Sox was not spoiled, as Duggan and the Blades gathered behind home plate for a memorable group photograph. Later that year, the Red Sox would win the World Series, marking the first time that a city enjoyed Clarkson Cup and World Series titles in the same season. 

Her return to Fenway in 2014 was certainly a memorable way to honor her hard work and dedication. Duggan employed some humor in paying tribute to an event that occurred just two days earlier between the Red Sox and Yanks. 

On April 23, 2014, Michael Pineda, a 25-year old pitcher in his second major league season was discovered having pine tar on his neck by Red Sox manager John Farrell. Once umpires approached Pineda, he had pointed to his neck as the Sox prevailed by a 5-1 margin. Two days later, Duggan paid tribute to the incident, which also took part at Fenway. Pointing to her neck prior to taking the first pitch, it was meant as a humorous take on the pine tar incident. Ironically, her first pitch would make national news, covered by major media outlets including ABC News and the New York Daily News.  

“I was DEFINITELY surprised at the attention from the first pitch. It was a fun moment and day to be a part of, and I was trying to get the crowd excited. They absolutely loved it, and so did the rest of New England. Sports rivalries are so fun, and I love how passionate people are about their favorite teams. That being said, I obviously never meant to offend anyone who loves the Yankees. It was a fun joke that was meant to be taken lightly, and for 99% of the people, that is what it was. For those that weren’t happy about it, my apologies.” 

 

Photo credit: Jared Wicherham, Getty Images, Obtained from zimbio.com


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