CLEVELAND — One of the spotlight honors during pregame festivities for World Series games is throwing the ceremonial first pitch.

For Indians fans, one of the favorites — in fact, the favorite, according to one online poll — to handle that task is native Peorian Jim Thome. But it won’t be before Game 2, because Thome was traveling to the East Coast on Wednesday afternoon.

Thome, who retired four years ago with 612 career home runs in the major leagues, played for the Indians from 1991-2002 and again briefly in 2011. He is the franchise’s all-time home run leader, with 337, and he is one of three former Indians to be honored with a statue on the plaza outside the center-field gates to Progressive Field. The others are Bob Feller and Larry Doby.

A graduate of Limestone Community High School and Illinois Central College, Thome starred for the Indians in their two most recent World Series appearances, in 1995 and 1997. One of his former teammates, Kenny Lofton, did the first-pitch honors before Game 1 Tuesday.

When the Indians won the American League pennant, there was an immediate and vocal sentiment among some fans to have actor Charlie Sheen throw a ceremonial pitch at some point during the Series. Sheen played the Indians pitcher Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn in the movies “Major League” and “Major League 2.” But the club nixed that.

So last week, the website Cleveland.com posted some suggestions and invited fans to vote.
As of Wednesday afternoon, almost 25,000 votes had been cast, and Thome was leading the pack, with 29.6 percent of the tally. In second place, with 25.13 percent, was basketball superstar LeBron James, who led the Cavaliers to the NBA championship last spring. Actor Drew Carey, a Cleveland native, was a distant third, at 14.5 percent.

Rounding out the names on the ballot were former Browns running back Ernest Byner (4.8 percent), President Barack Obama (3.38) and former Indians pitcher Jose Mesa (2.32). Write-in candidates totaled 20 percent.

Thome could not be reached for comment, but his father in Peoria was proud of the vote so far and hoping that — if the Series returns to Cleveland for Games 6 and 7, his son will be chosen for a first pitch.

“LeBron James, President Obama and Jim,” Chuck Thome said. “I’d say that puts him in pretty good company.”

— Kirk Wessler is Journal Star sports editor. Contact him at kwessler@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @KirkWessler.