UCONN's Kemba Walker Throws Out First Pitch At Yankee Stadium (With A Smile)
Star player of the University of Connecticut basketball team, guard Kemba Walker, who the whole country came to love during UCONN's run to the national championship, threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the start of the Yankees/Orioles game last night in the Bronx. In lieu of any Red Sox action from last night, here is an article from the Hartford Courant that will tell you all about Kemba's first time inside Yankee Stadium. Read on if you please...
NEW YORK —— "Kemba Walker grew up a couple of subway stops away, and he played basketball at Gauchos Gym, which is even closer. "I walked past it all the time," Walker said, "and it was like, 'Wow, that's Yankee Stadium,' and you know about all the history. But I never had the chance to go inside. I was always playing basketball."
Walker's first trip inside Yankee Stadium, the new one, was beyond a Bronx kid's wildest dreams — the Yankees were excited to see him. Walker came to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Yankees-Orioles game Wednesday night, and to share the moment with his teammates as the national champion UConn men's basketball team was honored.
"It's a special story," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who asked Walker to sign a baseball. "A Bronx kid. They mentioned several times on the telecast that he was from the Bronx and we all got excited, we started pulling for them."
The Yankees, many of whom played on the 2009 championship team or those that came earlier, had a champions' respect for UConn's accomplishment, winning 11 pressure-packed games in a row to win the Big East and NCAA tournaments.
"Kemba was fun to watch," CC Sabathia said, "the way he took over games, his will to win with the younger guys. It was like watching Derek Jeter, or Jorge Posada or Mariano Rivera, it makes [other players] feel you can't lose.."
Said Joba Chamberlain, "Kemba made everybody around him better, and then the other guys on that team stepped up when they had to." The Huskies arrived on the field at 5:20 p.m., while the Yankees were taking batting practice. Girardi saw that Roscoe Smith, who is from Baltimore, was wearing an Orioles hat. He quickly swiped it and put a Yankees hat in its place. But later, Girardi posed for a picture with Smith wearing his hometown team's cap. Jim Calhoun, devout Red Sox fan, did not make the trip, but the players and staffers stood behind the plate together and watched a video tribute to their championship run.
"It started with what they did in the Big East tournament," Girardi said. "Five games in five days? There has to be a mental toughness there. We watched Jeremy Lamb grow up before our eyes."
The players were introduced individually, then Jeter, the player Walker was most looking forward to meeting, and Curtis Granderson came out to greet the Huskies and shake hands when the video was over.
"They like sports," Walker said, "and the run we had — I don't care if you play basketball, baseball, or whatever, it was a tremendous run. For them to acknowledge us for what we did, it's cool. It's really cool."
I watched it on the the replays this morning and Kemba threw a pitch near the plate, just inside, from the actual mound. Like his 68 year old coach, Jim Calhoun, he threw from the actual mound, not in front of it by 10 or 15 feet. The smile on his face was infectiously brilliant. Some pinstripe fans yelled "go to the Knicks." That would be a dream for Kemba Walker, a native of the Bronx in the state of New York.
That's all I have for you today. The Boston Red Sox resume play, starting a four game series, including Monday's Patriots Day game with the Toronto Blue Jays. Here are the pitching particulars and everything else you need to know...
Fri. 15 Tor** 7:10 PM ET RSN/NESN** C. Buchholz (0-2) vs. B. Cecil (0-1)
Sat. 16 Tor**1:10 PM ET RSN/NESN** J. Beckett (1-1) vs. J. Reyes (0-1)
Sun. 17 Tor** 1:35 PM ET TBS/NESN** J. Lester (0-1) vs. J. Litsch (1-0)
Mon. 18 Tor** 11:05 AM ET RSN/NESN** D. Matsuzaka (0-2) vs. R. Romero (1-1)
Tuesday, Boston starts a three game set with Oakland out west. And yes, that's when we'll see John Lackey take the mound and try to right his ship, a vessel that's connected to all of us. That would be a big shot in the arm for his team. We can only hope. I have to run now but I hope you have a great Friday and a wonderful, maybe wacky, weekend. Click on this post's title for more and as always, be well.