Friday, June 24, 2011
Dirk Nowitzki throws first pitch
By Richard Durrett
ARLINGTON, Texas -- As Dirk Nowitzki was announced to the large crowd at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Friday night to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, he carried a basketball with him to the mound.
The Dallas Mavericks' 10-time All-Star shot his patented jumper before taking out a baseball and firing toward the Texas Rangers' Michael Young, a Los Angeles Lakers fan who pulled for Nowitzki and the local NBA team once they eliminated L.A.
The pitch was high, causing Young to leap. Nowitzki laughed, pointed at his bicep and then signed basketballs and baseballs for charity before heading to a suite to watch the Rangers beat the New York Mets, 8-1.
"The only thing I wanted to do on the pitch was not keep it low," Nowitzki said. "Everybody was making fun of me and that I can't do the John Wall. He obviously left it very low. I kept it a little high, but that was better than the bounce, I guess."
Wall, the Washington Wizards' point guard who was the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA draft, bounced his first pitch last week at Nationals Park in D.C.
Nowitzki, who was named NBA Finals MVP on his way to leading the Mavericks to their first championship earlier this month, averaged 27.7 points in 21 playoff games, helping the Mavs beat the Portland Trail Blazers, the Lakers, the Oklahoma City Thunder and, of course, the Miami Heat.
The last time Nowitzki threw out a first pitch at a Rangers game, his then-teammate Steve Nash caught the ball just behind home plate in 2003.
"It's been a while," Nowitzki said. "It's always great to be here. I'm a Ranger fan. I came out last year to support them in their run to the playoffs and they unfortunately came up a little short like we did in '06. Hopefully one day they'll be back on that stage and get it done."
Nowitzki is heading home to Germany this weekend and isn't sure what's in store for him when he arrives. He noted that teammate J.J. Barea was honored with parades in two cities in his native Puerto Rico.
"I think I'm just going to get one [parade]," Nowitzki said. "We'll see what my hometown can come up with. It's going to be great. I haven't seen my family yet because I told them to let me concentrate on the playoffs. So they were a little disappointed, but hopefully I can make up for it and spend some time with them this summer and really enjoy it and celebrate it."
Nowitzki still has not decided whether to play for the German national team. He said he's going to take vacation time and think about things before making a decision.
The Mavericks veteran wore a Rangers blue cap and a Rangers jersey -- with the No. 41 and "Nowitzki" on the back -- and said he didn't get to practice throwing the first pitch because he was busy meeting the Rangers players and manager Ron Washington and signing autographs.
Nowitzki said he hasn't thought much about next year, but Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle's mind is thinking ahead already.
"Coach Carlisle is such a freak," Nowitzki said. "He texted us already: 'Get some rest. We got to repeat.' I was like, 'We just won. Can't we get like at least two or three weeks [to] get over what we did?' So he's already fired up for next season. I think everybody else is still kind of in shock and it will take a few weeks to sink in and enjoy it."
Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.