By Carey Phillips
Rising Scotts Creek School eighth-grader Zeb Mathis had the surprise of his life Sunday night while watching the ESPN broadcast of his favorite baseball team, the Atlanta Braves, playing the New York Mets.
Mathis didn’t know until it came on TV that he is included in a Chevrolet commercial promoting the return of Major League Baseball. The start of the MLB season was delayed from April until last Thursday by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mathis, the son of the Revs. Jeff and Rebecca Mathis, is briefly shown throwing a “first pitch” at a Blue Ridge Parkway overlook.
“We heard via email about three weeks ago that when Major League Baseball was coming back they wanted to invite children to submit a 15-second video about what they love about baseball and a first pitch,” Jeff Mathis said. “Zeb and I thought we would like to find an amazing place. He recommended we go on the Parkway.”
The submitted clip was shot at a Parkway overlook between Balsam Gap and Waterrock Knob.
The Mathis family knew that some of the clips would be included in a commercial, but they received no notification that Zeb would be part of it.
“We were just watching the Braves game on ESPN, and the commercial came on,” Jeff said. “Zeb said ‘Oh my gosh Dad, look.’ We started watching and saw the clip of him throwing from the Parkway.”
“I was shocked,” Zeb said. “I didn’t think I was going to be up there. It was pretty neat to see all the clips put together. When I first saw it come on I thought ‘Maybe.’ Later in the commercial I saw myself on the clip. That was super neat.”
Many of Zeb’s friends have reacted to the commercial.
“They think it’s really cool,” he said.
The younger Mathis has inherited a love of baseball from his father.
“Baseball is huge,” Zeb said. “I love it. The coronavirus took it away, but I’m glad to have it back. I’m a big Braves fan.”
His favorite player is Atlanta outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr., but Zeb is concerned about Acuna’s slow start, which includes eight strikeouts and a .133 batting average in the first three games.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Zeb was able to be part of the Jackson County Junior League this season. He played second base and left field.
“It was a nice break from everything else,” he said.