Co-Pilot Throws Out First Pitch

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  • A U.S. Airways plane in the Hudson River. | Photo: TODAY'S TMJ4

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Jeff Skiles said he knows what Cinderella feels like now. But he's enjoying one last weekend in the spotlight.

Skiles, the co-pilot and first officer from Oregon, Wis., on U.S. Airways Flight 1549 that landed in New York's Hudson River, threw out the first pitch at Miller Park on Friday before the Milwaukee Brewers took on the Chicago Cubs.

"I know how Cinderella felt and nobody on the inside really understands, it's just a fluke, I guess, what happened, when it happened, where it happened. It just seems to really have attracted the attention of not just this country, but the world," Skiles said. "I get mail and newspapers from foreign countries. I don't understand anything about what they say in them, but I see the picture of the airplane and I know what it's about."

All 155 passengers and crew were safely rescued following apparent bird strikes that knocked out the plane's engines and forced pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger to make the splashdown landing in the river on Jan. 15 a few minutes after take off.

Skiles, who played baseball in Little League, was accompanied by his three children and father. His 15-year-old son, Matt, gave pointers to his dad as the two practiced earlier this week and told him to not try any offspeed pitches.

"This is really great. Last Friday I was at the Yankees' game and Sully threw out the first pitch," Skiles said. "Just to be out there in front of the crowd, it was just an unbelievable feeling that I guess only pitchers know."

Skiles' throw was a little wide of the plate and caught by backup infielder Casey McGehee. The 49-year-old Skiles said he's been in awe of all the attention, but can't wait to get back to work on Monday when he becomes the first member of the crew to begin flying for U.S. Airways again.

"I'm the first person to go back. It's not really any psychological reason, at least in my case, it's all these media events have constantly taken up my time -- three, four, five days a week," said Skiles, who said that officials at the airline had told him he could take the entire summer off if he wanted. "But I do really miss it. This is the longest time since I was 17 years old that I haven't flown an airplane. I do miss it and I'm going to enjoy going back."

Skiles' packed schedule has included congressional testimony, sitting in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's speaker box and attending President Barack Obama's inauguration.

It's the second time the Brewers have had a first pitch thrown by a member of Flight 1549. Sullenberger threw out the first pitch in San Francisco on Tuesday and wore the number "155" on his jersey, the reference to the passengers on the flight.

Brewers catcher Jason Kendall said the crew's story is amazing.

"It's just awesome, man," Kendall said. "It's really great to see them."

But Skiles acknowledged he's ready to return to what he loves -- flying.

"I'm regular Jeff Skiles from Oregon, Wis., right now, just all these amazing things seem to keep happening to me," Skiles said. "But sooner or later, I'm going to go back to what I was before."

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)