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Wild things, Palone you make my heart sing!

May 24, 2012

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Legends' Week continues at CONSOL Energy Park during the Washington Wild Things' opening homestand, as harness driver Dave Palone graces the park to throw out the first pitch and meet with fans Thursday night.
Palone will highlight the Wild Things' "Legends' Week” with former Pittsburgh Pirate and Upper St. Clair native Sean Casey, longtime Pirate broadcaster Lanny Frattare, Steelers broadcaster Bill Hilgrove and Hall of Famer Dermontti Dawson, who played for the black and gold from 1988-2000.

"It's an obvious honor especially with those names. So it's nice to be recognized,” said Palone. "I don't consider myself a legend, but to be included among those guys is a great honor.”

Palone, whose home track is the nearby Meadows Racetrack, reached the 15,000-win mark on March 27, 2012. In doing so he became the second North American driver to accomplish the milestone, and currently sits within 86 wins of Herve Filion. Filion's career mark sits at 15,180, which means that Palone should surpass it later this summer.

"For 15,000, my family was there in the winner's circle which meant a lot to me. It was such a privilege to get to that number and do it at my home track made it extra special,” said Palone. "I feel like I've got so many people on my side in the chase (for win 15,181) and it's great.”

The western Pennsylvania native has won at least 500 races every year beginning in 1992. No one in North America has won more races during that period.

"In fact it seemed like 1,000 wins would be an insurmountable number. But 15,000, to know that only two guys have gotten here, it's really starting to hit me and how much work I've put in to get to that point,” said Palone.

Rightfully so, Palone was inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame on July 4, 2010. He is a six-time recipient of the Harness Tracks of America's Driver of the Year Award: 2009, 2008, 2004, 2003, 2000 and 1999.

As a kid, Palone remembers watching his idol Filion, and their relationship has seemingly strengthened as Palone edges closer to surpassing him.

"He's (Filion) been very supportive, he wants to be here when we do get to the record, and that would mean a lot to me. He was one of my heroes growing up, so to catch him would be a tremendous achievement.”

For now, Palone has no intentions to hang up the reins. He still finds enjoyment in the sport and feels as good as he has in a long time.

"I really haven't put a date on it; I enjoy driving races and winning races. I think as long as I can be competitive and win races (I'll continue to race),” Palone said. "I don't want to be out there and be a hindrance to the trainer. Right now I feel like I'm at the top of my game and I'm really looking forward to the future.”

The driver conceded that stepping out to the mound at CONSOL Energy Park Thursday night would be a different experience, one that he hasn't had the delight of enjoying in many years.

"The first pitch, that's going to be great because I've got so many of my buddies coming and rooting against me,” he said. "I've never thrown a first pitch and haven't pitched since little league, so I'm looking forward to it.”

Plenty of seats are still available to see Palone on the mound Thursday night. If you would like tickets and a chance to meet Dave Palone or any of the rest of the legends this week, they can be purchased by visiting http://www.washingtonwildthings.com/, the CONSOL Energy Park box office, or by calling (866) 456-WILD. (Washington Wild Things)

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