In hindsight, the question itself probably would’ve been lampooned by the likes of a Coach Popovich.
Luckily, I was interviewing an Arizona Cardinals rookie. At the same time, why exactly would I wonder if “this atmosphere fazes you?” …when let’s just say that a Marlins crowd doesn’t exactly, uh, measure up to the fervor of SEC football.
“Nah, it doesn’t faze me at all, but…” Tyrann Mathieu paused before adding, “I was kind of nervous.”
Why? Simple. Mathieu was out of his element. Not in a stadium, but on the mound. The former Heisman Trophy finalist threw out the first pitch before the D-backs’ game against the Miami Marlins Tuesday.
“Just relax. Just go out there and throw the ball the way you know how to throw the ball,” Mathieu quoted Josh Collmenter (#FerrisWheel) as telling him during a pregame throwing session. “He said that I have a pretty good arm, so that gave me some confidence going out there.”
And, make no mistake, as a former high school baseball player, The Badger (as Patrick Peterson called him after the final minicamp practice) can throw.
This wasn’t your typical celebrity first pitch that resembled a basketball bounce pass or a golfer chili-dipping. No smart-aleck intoned “jusssst a bit outside.”
In fact, when I asked Mathieu how confident he was on the mound, he responded: “I was probably a nine (out of ten). I was extremely confident. It was just exciting to get out there and actually be on a big league stage.”
True that. Due to suspensions, Mathieu hasn’t been between the white lines for a real game of any sort in nearly two years.
So, if you’re a Cardinals fan, you’re hoping to hear those sound bites over and over.
“It was just exciting to get out there,” Mathieu might say after his first training camp practice.
“I was extremely confident,” after his first preseason game in Green Bay.
“I was probably a nine (out of ten),” after the season opener in St. Louis.
If we’re talking football game plans, then Mathieu wants his first pitch to foreshadow his first year in the NFL. Right down to the skeptics.
“Doubters? Yeah,” Mathieu responded when I asked him if his teammates questioned his arm. “I’m like, man, I’m a competitor. I’m going to get the ball across the plate. It’s not going to fall short. A few of ‘em doubted me, but I made ‘em believers.”
Keep throwing strikes. And Mathieu will keep making believers.
In return, Arizona will keep embracing the former LSU star. In fact, is the Valley starting to feel like home?
“Definitely,” Mathieu said. “Just to get the opportunity is extremely humbling. I’m definitely grateful for the opportunity.”