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The Daily Wildcat

 

Rodriguez to throw first pitch at D-Backs opener on Friday

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Colin Darland
Colin Darland / Daily Wildcat

Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez played baseball in high school. He was a shortstop, second baseman and third baseman because, as he said, he didn’t have the arm to be a pitcher.

The Arizona Diamondbacks announced Wednesday that Rodriguez and recently hired ASU head coach Todd Graham will be throwing out the ceremonial first pitches on Friday at Chase Field for the D-Backs’ Opening Day.

Rodriguez, a professed Pittsburgh Pirates fan who is close friends with Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick, said he is just hoping he doesn’t make a fool of himself when he throws in front of what is expected to be a sold-out crowd.

“I think it’ll be the first time I’ve really thrown a baseball since my last high school baseball game,” Rodriguez said. “I better throw a little bit this week, I don’t want to embarrass myself. It should be fun.”

Rodriguez pitching on Friday was news to senior quarterback Matt Scott, who also played baseball in high school.

“No way, I want to throw that,” Scott said, smiling. “I got the curveball. I did a little pitching. They might sign me if I throw that thing. I wonder if he’s going from the stretch or the wind up, I’m sure he can figure it out though.”

Rivalry with ASU’s Graham not lost on Rodriguez

The fact that Rodriguez will be pitching alongside Graham, his new coaching rival, is not lost on Rodriguez.

“It probably would be more exciting if he (Graham) was batting and I was pitching, or the other way around, but it should be great,” Rodriguez said.

Graham went to the Sun Devils in December after just one season coaching at Pittsburgh and four successful years at Tulsa, where he won 36 games and made three bowl appearances.

When Graham was hired at ASU, there was one thing Rodriguez noticed that wasn’t mentioned in press releases — Graham coached under Rodriguez in West Virginia.

“Todd worked for me for a couple of years. I don’t know if they mentioned that in his press release or not,” Rodriguez said, laughing. “We’ve always had a great relationship. We haven’t talked since he got the job. We probably will keep in touch a whole lot less now, just because it’s a rivalry and we play each other.

“We’ll be friendly as always but we just won’t talk about football or what each other’s doing because of the competitive side of it.”

Rodriguez was friendly with rival coaches while at West Virginia and Michigan, including Dave Wannstedt at Pittsburgh and Jim Tressel at Ohio State. But Rodriguez didn’t talk with them as much when he coached against them, for obvious reasons.

“I got to know Dave really well at Pitt. I knew Jim Tressel before I went to Michigan so we know each other from some trips, we had a good relationship and we still do,” Rodriguez said. “When you’re going against them with a rivalry, you’re not gonna talk as much. But I like being friendly with the coaches, coach (Jeff) Tedford’s a close friend of mine at Cal.”

Rodriguez agrees with Stoops on state of facilities

Two weeks ago, former Arizona head coach Mike Stoops told CBS Sports’ Bryan Fischer that, among other things, the Wildcats’ mediocre facilities were a big reason why the UA was unable to compete at a championship level.

“When you don’t have a football facility and every Mountain West team has one and you don’t, that’s a problem,” Stoops said. “We were playing at a BCS level and I feel like I was fighting with a toothpick and they’ve got a bat.”

Some other things Stoops said might not appear to be very true, such as his claim of a lack of commitment from the athletic department, but Rodriguez is aware the Wildcats’ facilities have been mediocre for a while.

“There’s no question we’ve been below average in football facilities, but I think a lot of programs have been below average,” Rodriguez said. “A huge part of us going forward is that we need the North End Zone Project and what’s going on there. I’m glad we’re doing it. I think it’s necessary, it’s needed and it’s been needed for some time.”

Construction on the estimated $72.3 million project is underway and it will include upgraded premium seating and improved facilities for the team.

“Administration and everybody like (athletic director) Greg Byrne has stepped up,” Rodriguez said. “And now in a year-and-a-half, we’ll have the nicest new facility in the country.”

ASU unveils plans for new Sun Devil Stadium

ASU announced on Wednesday its plans for a new Sun Devil Stadium, and one of the features included is a roof, or more specifically, a “fabric shade canopy”.

Rodriguez heard about the renovations, but said he believes having the heat is actually an advantage and he wouldn’t want to add a roof to Arizona Stadium.

“I can understand you’d want a roof, in particular if you’re a pro team and all that,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been to one game here at our stadium I think it’s a great atmosphere, of course it was late in the year, but from what I understand the games are at night anyway. If I had a priority to put a roof over something it’d be a roof over the indoor field so we could have no worries about the lightning or the monsoons in August.”

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