Baseball and ballet collide on first pitch at Reds game

CINCINNATI (AP) - Cervilio Amador turned his back to home plate, just like Johnny Cueto. Then he did two spins in the air before landing gracefully and throwing a ceremonial pitch to Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman.

Ballet and baseball, a double tour.

The Cuban dancer and the Cuban pitcher teamed up for a special moment before Sunday's game against the Milwaukee Brewers. They left Cuba several years apart and have furthered their high-profile careers in Cincinnati, where they became friends.

Amador always wanted to throw a pitch at a Reds game - he's a big baseball fan - and Chapman helped him do it.

The move was all his own.

"I did a Cueto windup and then it was OK, a double tour," Amador said, referring to his gravity-defying double spin from the front of the mound.

The throw? Right there. The nerves? There, too.

"You know what? I did get nervous when I started walking to the mound," said Amador, who has performed in front of thousands as a Cincinnati Ballet principal dancer for the last eight years. "It reminded me of what I feel right before I go on stage and start performing. Your heart just pumps.

"I was like, 'Just breathe, you can do this.' So much fun!"

The island's two famous performers enjoyed the chance to share such a moment. Amador left Cuba in 2003 and joined the Cincinnati Ballet. Chapman defected in 2009 and signed with the Reds. They met at a mutual friend's birthday party and became friends, active in a close-knit Cuban community in Cincinnati.

"Since I met him, we've had a good relationship," Chapman said, with assistant trainer Tomas Vera translating. "He's a great person."

Amador played baseball in the streets of Cuba as a boy, but was never on a team - dance was his thing. Chapman helped him realize one of his dreams by assisting with the ceremonial pitch. He gave him some tips on throwing before Friday's game to prepare him.

After his spin and fling, Amador got the ball from Chapman as a keepsake and walked over to the railing of the Reds dugout for a long, animated chat with manager Dusty Baker, who visited Cuba a few years ago as part of a diplomatic trip for the arts.

While in Cuba, Baker visited the national ballet school where Amador studied.

"He was telling me his experience when he went to Cuba," Amador said. "He went to the school that I went to, and they performed for him. That's pretty cool."

Amador, wearing a Reds jersey with No. 50, waved to the cheering fans as he left the field and headed for a tunnel at the end of the Brewers' dugout. Milwaukee shortstop Jean Segura called to him in Spanish, giving him grief about his delivery. Amador joked back.

"Those guys were giving me a hard time," Amador said.

Didn't bother him.

"They're on the opposite team," he said.

There's only one bit of unfinished business for the dancer and the closer. Chapman has never seen Amador on stage.

"I haven't seen him dance, but I want to go," Chapman said. "He told me he has a new show in September, so I want to see it."