AL HAMNIK: VU's Bryce Drew preparing to rock and throw

2014-06-21T18:00:00Z 2014-07-06T15:06:53Z AL HAMNIK: VU's Bryce Drew preparing to rock and throwAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
June 21, 2014 6:00 pm  • 

You've seen the sequence over and over.

Celebrity throws out ceremonial first pitch at a game.

Take your pick:

Ball reaches the catcher on five bounces.

Ball hits TV cameraman standing near first base.

Ball sails off the backstop.

Ball rolls across home plate.

Ball goes straight up in the air, lands on celeb's head.

Bryce Drew needn't worry. This is like stealing candy from a toddler.

The Valparaiso University men's basketball coach will throw out the first pitch for the July 5 game between the Mariners and White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.

There is a distinct VU angle with Drew having played for the Crusaders and Mariners' manager Lloyd McClendon starring as a catcher on their baseball team.

"Our alumni association was working with the White Sox on doing like a Valpo day since Lloyd was coming back," Drew said. "They're going to rent out one of the big suites for alumni and with Lloyd being there, it's the perfect game to do so."

VU president Mark A. Heckler and athletic director Mark LaBarbera don't have to fret any of those above scenarios with Drew when walks to the mound that day.

His pitch repertoire is classified information.

"Definitely not a fastball," Drew said. "Definitely not too slow, either. Hopefully, a decent enough speed that hits the mitt and not the dirt."

This is no knee-knocking rookie, folks, who must move in closer to the plate.

"I threw at the Cubs game last year," Drew said. "Thank God, the catcher caught it, so it was all good. Hopefully, we can do the same thing at The Cell.

"I don't know if 'nervous' is the word, but you get excited and a little tense because you don't want to mess up. You don't want to throw it over the catcher's head or into the dirt and be on TV for a terrible first pitch.

"If I miss everybody, it's going to be on."

Drew is hoping for a respectable throw, some decent applause, and the game beginning without fans having to dry tears of laughter.

It's challenging moments like these on the big stage where his six years in the NBA and 10 years of college coaching help build an iron-like will.

This is the kid whose 23-foot buzzer beater led 13th-seed Valpo to a 70-69 upset of No. 3 Ole Miss in first-round play of the 1998 NCAA Tournament.

This is the kid who played 243 career NBA games with Houston, Chicago, Charlotte and New Orleans.

"In the NBA, you go through stuff and put that defense up where you're really focused on what you're doing," Drew said. "Now that I'm older, I have a different approach in going to something like this.

"You enjoy it more and you soak it in more because you probably won't get another opportunity like this again."

Drew made his first Cubs appearance as a member of the Bulls in 2001 and visited the WGN booth for the seventh-inning "Take Me Out To The Ball Game."

Baseball was actually his favorite sport until age 15. He played centerfield, hit left-handed, threw right-handed and was pretty good running the bases.

"Hopefully, I'll get out the next couple weeks and throw the ball so I don't throw my arm out (July 5)," Drew said. "I definitely need practice a little bit."

If you're a betting man, I'd say odds heavily favor Drew hitting the mitt over the Sox making the playoffs.

Just saying.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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