CLEVELAND -- It was a moment more than 20 years in the making.
But on Wednesday, professional wrestler -- and Cleveland native -- Johnny Gargano finally threw out the first pitch at Progressive Field.
Although he's become accustomed to the main event, the reigning NXT Champion served as the opening act for the Cleveland Indians' matinee matchup with the Miami Marlins. Accompanied to the stadium he grew up visiting as a kid by his wife -- and fellow NXT wrestler -- Candice LeRae, Gargano checked off what he described as an item on his "childhood bucket list."
Gargano's return to Progressive Field came a day after he visited the Cleveland Browns' facility, where he showed off his hardware to head coach Freddie Kitchens. Earlier this month, the 2005 St. Edward's graduate defeated Adam Cole in a two-out-of-three falls match at the NXT TakeOver: New York show on Wrestlemania weekend to win the vacant NXT title, becoming the first triple crown winner on WWE's developmental brand.
Gargano's Northeast Ohio roots have been on full display throughout his ascent in the wrestling world. In addition to wearing the Cleveland skyline across his trunks, the 31-year-old can often be seen wearing Baker Mayfield apparel and even ran the stadium steps at FirstEnergy Stadium to prepare for his match vs. Cole earlier this month.
In what's become a tradition after each of his championship victories, Gargano posed for a picture with his new title at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport upon his return to his hometown this past weekend.
“I’m excited to share this with you guys, and I can’t wait until after TakeOver: New York, when I’m going to come back in this building, I’m going to share an NXT Championship with you guys. I’m going to bring that title back home to Cleveland," Gargano told a group of local wrestlers at the AIW wrestling school earlier this month in a video posted to WWE's YouTube page. "I’m going to bring it back to you guys."
Prior to his first pitch Gargano visited Brewnuts, where he and LeRae held an impromptu meet-and-greet with fans. Taking to Twitter, he showcased a skills certificate he had earned with the Indians in 1995 -- although based on his first pitch, it's probably good that his wrestling career has worked out.