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Saturday, October 22, 2011
Dirk Nowitzki throws heat, feels love

By Jeff Caplan

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dirk Nowitzki had a blast throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 3 of the World Series. He got on the mound, steadied into the stretch, hung his long, right arm, gripped the baseball and took the sign.

He shook it off.

"I looked him off twice, spat, spat; I had to spit," Nowitzki said, smiling, when watching a replay of himself on the television broadcast.

Then he fired hummer, a low, four-seam fastball - "or was it a two-seam fastball?" Nowitzki said -- into the glove of Michael Young. His battery mate was fitting. The Rangers' captain is in his 11th year with a franchise that he's seen through some dark days to get to a second consecutive World Series. Nowitzki, of course, won the the Mavericks' first NBA title in June after losing in the Finals in 2006.

"We've been here for a long time and he's trying to win the whole thing like I did, and finally I reached my dream," Nowitzki said. "So hopefully he can do the same thing this year. And the way we've made contact even over the last couple years, trying to meet up whenever we can. He's a great guy and he's the man, so hopefully he can come through and bring this city another championship."

Nowitzki initially wasn't going to be allowed to throw out the first pitch. The Rangers included him on a list of candidates sent to Major League Baseball. The Rangers got word back that MLB didn't want Nowitzki to be involved. When ESPN.com's Marc Stein broke the story, fans took to social media and caused a tidal wave of protest.

Not long after, the Rangers heard from commissioner Bud Selig, telling them to invite Nowitzki.

"It was unbelievable, the response I got," Nowitzki said. "My Twitter blew up that day and it was just a crazy day. One time it was a no-go, then it was on again. Really excited the feedback from the fans and the whole Metroplex kind of tweeted somebody at Major League Baseball to get on it. So I'm really proud of obviously representing the Metroplex, and hopefully I did OK with the pitch."

Nowitzki said he never received a plausible explanation for being excluded.

"Yeah, it was kind of wishy-washy. Nothing really. Nothing really that really made sense," Nowitzki said. "No, I'm glad it worked out and I got to represent. ... It was on, then I got the 'it was off,' and I was like, that's fine. I wasn't really hurt or anything. I just wanted to be here and watch the game. Even if they wouldn't have let me pitch today I probably would be here and support the boys."

Nowitzki sat in the second row to the right of home plate next to teammate Brian Cardinal -- the Custodian was wearing, like Dirk, a blue Rangers jersey with his name and Mavs No. 35 on the back -- right behind Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan. It was convenient for Dirk, who is hoping to be back at the ballpark the next two nights for Games 4 and 5.

"I'm going to ask Nolan when I sit behind him," Dirk said, "what's going on with the tickets?"