Nik Wallenda—the famous aerialist who previously conquered such immense natural challenges as the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls—is set to walk the more than 500 feet over Palisades Credit Union Park in Pomona, New York, on Saturday, June 25. The daredevil stunt will take place about 125 feet above the field where the Rockland Boulders, an independent professional baseball team, will play the Cuban National Team that day. Wallenda will drop the ceremonial first pitch from the tightrope. That act will give the aerialist his eleventh record for the Guinness World Book—namely for the “highest first pitch thrown.”
Wallenda made his highly publicized walks over Niagara Falls in June 2012 and over the Grand Canyon in June 2014. The walk over the baseball park—though not as dramatic as those above these natural landmarks—is nevertheless special in the long history of the Wallenda family’s tightrope treks. It is similar to a walk made by Nik’s legendary great-grandfather, Karl, over the New York Mets’ Shea Stadium in 1970. Nik’s walk will be about the same distance and height as Karl’s walk and, like Karl, Nik will not use a safety harness or net. He said he learned from his great-grandfather that such devices provide only a “false sense of security.”
Karl made tightrope walks over baseball stadiums into one of his specialties. In addition to Shea Stadium, he also walked over Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, the Kingdome in Seattle, Candlestick Park in San Francisco, County Stadium in Milwaukee, and the Astrodome in Houston. But Karl never threw out a first pitch—so Nik is bettering him in that regard. Nick said, “My great-grandfather made a name for the family walking over stadiums and I wanted to do something very similar but also unique, so I asked if I could throw out the first pitch from the wire.”
The walk across Palisades Credit Union Park is expected to take from 10 to 15 minutes. That’s less time than many of Nik’s well-known walks, but it still requires a great deal of training and preparation. To prepare for all his walks, Wallenda puts himself through vigorous exercise routines to build strength and perfect balance skills, including walking on the rope while holding 24-pound weights and while carrying a person on his shoulders, as well as balancing on one leg and balancing while sitting, kneeling, and laying down.
Wallenda notes that all tightrope walks are a challenge, regardless of the length or the height. “Everything is relative; the danger is the same if you’re 30 feet up or 100 feet over a baseball stadium or 200 feet over Niagara Falls. … it’s all about the training and preparation. It’s all about skill, but there are backup plans, if you will. I can hold onto the wire for 20 minutes. If I get hit by a gust of wind, you will see me kneel down, and I do have rescue ropes that I’ve been trained to slide down if I get hit by wind.”
Wallenda adds that a proper psychological perspective is just as important as physical training to prepare for a walk. “Respect your limits and know your boundaries. I’m never overconfident—the dangers are real—but the truth is there’s dangers all around us. I consider it healthy what I do. I can live every day like it’s my last, and all of us should live that way. It’s easy to forgive, forget and love, when we live every day like it’s your last. I am not scared of what I do, or I wouldn’t be doing it.”