NEW YORK -- When Tony Odierno took the mound to throw the first pitch on Thursday, he wasn't doing it just as a Yankees fan. He also wasn't doing it because it was a Yankees-Red Sox game.
He was throwing it for much more than that. This was for the soldiers who have served and continue to serve as he did.
"I'm throwing it out for all those that are still serving our country," said Odierno, a retired U.S. Army captain who's now a Yankees stadium operations intern.
The Yankees invited Odierno as part of Major League Baseball's Welcome Back Veterans initiative to raise awareness and funds for the mental health and job needs of veterans.
Before Odierno's pitch, 13 wounded soldiers from the Wounded Warriors Project were recognized on the field. The presentation of colors was done by the Navy Operational Support Center Bronx Color Guard.
"To be able to make that walk out to the pitcher's mound, it's extra special because they had the team take the field before I went out there," said the 29-year-old Odierno, who's finishing a master's degree in business administration and finance at NYU. "It's just an amazing feeling."
Odierno, who lost his left arm in Iraq almost four years ago, threw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 2005, with his father, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno.
This time, he did it from the rubber.
"It was a little different, because I was on the mound this time," Odierno said. "I was actually more nervous because of that."
After he threw the pitch, which found the left corner of the plate, he put the ball in his pocket.
"I'll take it home with me and put it in a case," he said, taking the ball out of his pocket and examining it. "Every time I look at it, I'll think about this day, think about the Yankees and what they've done for our wounded soldiers, and what a great day it was."
Willie Bans is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.