It's the spot where Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Hideo Nomo and other legendary pitchers faced down batters over the last 50 years.
Next week, Dodger Stadium will play host to a tough hurler of a different kind.
Dan Kanne, a Huntington Beach resident and former board member of the Shipley Nature Center, is set to throw out the first pitch at the Dodgers' June 18 game against the Houston Astros. He may not be in the running for the Cy Young Award, but he'll have one honor this season — courtesy USC, which selected him as one of three patients to toss out the first ball at Dodgers games this year.
Kanne, who has been treated for epilepsy and colon cancer at USC for 10 months, got the call from one of his doctors last month. He had a moment of trepidation when he heard the voice on the phone, but then the doctor threw him a proverbial slider.
"You don't get a good feeling when your doctor calls you," said Kanne, a retired software engineer. "And he said, 'Dan, if you'd like to throw out the first pitch at a Dodgers game, call so-and-so at marketing at USC.'"
USC University Hospital, which started a partnership two years ago with the Dodgers, recommends several cancer patients each year for the first-ball toss. USC Norris Cancer Hospital also joined the team this year. Spokeswoman Alison Trinidad said the staff looks for inspirational stories, and Kanne, who had colon surgery in February and was out of the hospital cancer-free in three days, fit the bill.
Kanne, 52, doesn't expect to unleash a Koufax-style heater. In addition to his other conditions, he's struggling with bursitis in his arm, and he expects to stand 25 feet away from the catcher instead of the full 60 from home plate.
Still, when he takes the mound — or the grass near it — June 18, he'll be the star of the ballpark. And co-starring will be Huntington Beach, as a video production company hired by USC visited Kanne the other week to film him tossing the ball in his backyard and walking around the Bolsa Chica wetlands.
Kanne, who is on anti-seizure medication and has fought epilepsy since his teens, has been on leave from most of his Surf City activities. Before the treatments started last summer, he organized Shipley's Spring Festival, served as a computer tutor at the Huntington Beach Central Library and participated in weekly cleanups with the Bolsa Chica Land Trust.
As his health returns, Kanne hopes to resume his old schedule. But in the meantime, he's revisiting one of his old loves — the Dodgers, whom he rooted for as a boy growing up in the San Fernando Valley, at one point gawking at Koufax's and Drysdale's houses when his summer-camp bus rolled by them.
"I don't want to say it's a once-in-a-lifetime thing," he said about the first-ball toss. "No one I talked to has ever had the chance to do this, or knows anyone that will have the chance to do this."
City Editor MICHAEL MILLER can be reached at (714) 966-4617 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.