Pro baseball

VU's Drew has a day to remember at the Cell

2014-07-05T18:30:00Z 2014-07-08T19:45:15Z VU's Drew has a day to remember at the CellAl Hamnik al.hamnik@nwi.com, (219) 933-4154 nwitimes.com
July 05, 2014 6:30 pm  • 

CHICAGO | Valparaiso University men's basketball coach Bryce Drew can take solace in knowing few, if any, major leaguers can hit a 23-foot shot at the buzzer to win an NCAA Tournament game.

"There you go. There you go," Drew said, nodding in agreement.

That should make his one-bounce ceremonial first pitch before Saturday's White Sox-Mariners game a bit easier on the ego.

And forget there were more than 200 VU fans in the left-field skyboxes. Most were probably out in the concourse, waiting in line at the popular bacon-on-a-stick concession.

"Bad pitch. Bad pitch, so we've got to do better the next time," Drew said of the ball he tossed to honorary catcher Chris Sale.

Drew's favorite sport growing up was baseball until basketball at age 15. His grandfather, Tom Demark, scouted for the Phillies and once pitched batting practice to Babe Ruth.

One-bounce Bryce added to the family history Saturday.

Mariners' manager Lloyd McClendon, a standout catcher during his college career at VU, was asked before the game if he planned to autograph the ball Drew would throw.

"No, unless he can hit a slider. I got all the pitching I need," McClendon said.

The two did meet briefly before the game.

"It was good to get the perspective of a successful coach in a different sport and new ideas," Drew said. "I definitely picked up some stuff."

The Crusaders' fifth-year coach hopes to have McClendon speak to his team in the postseason.

Bulls' draft picks Doug McDermott and Cameron Bairstow also threw ceremonial first pitches to Sale, both of which resembled soft toss.

His advice to Drew was straight down the middle.

"Should've thrown a little higher," Drew said. "I probably should've practiced off a mound, so I think that threw me off a little bit.

"Give me a couple more and I'll be a little more accurate. I felt good in the warmup but obviously came up a little short."

McClendon spoke about VU in the pre-game but his focus was understandably elsewhere.

"I'm very proud to be a Valpo alum. My daughter went to school there and graduated from law school there. My son went to school there. And my wife graduated from there. So we have a tremendous connection," he said.

"I hate to say it, but VU is in the background today. I'm trying to win a baseball game."

And Seattle did, in marathon fashion, rallying from a 2-0 deficit in the ninth to prevail 3-2 in 14 innings.

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