Illinois head coach John Groce was at Wrigley Field on Saturday, where he threw out the first pitch before the Chicago Cubs’ game against the Baltimore Orioles. Accompanied by his two sons, Groce’s effort was solid if not spectacular especially when considering past efforts of celebrities and other sports figures who’ve been asked to complete the same task.
Illinois enters the 2014-15 season looking to make a return to the NCAA tournament after falling short of their goal last year. Tracy Abrams, Rayvonte Rice and Nnanna Egwu return to lead the way for the Fighting Illini, and their five rising sophomores (led by Kendrick Nunn, Malcolm Hill and Jaylon Tate) will look to step forward as well.
Illinois also adds two transfer guards in Aaron Cosby and Ahmad Starks, and four-star forward Leron Black is also expected to contribute as a freshman.
Video credit: CSN Chicago
I’ll take “Intentionally Misleading Headlines” for $1,000, Alex.
Iowa’s journeyman head coach Fran McCaffery will, in fact, take the mound at Wrigley, but he won’t likely be a candidate for Tommy John surgery by the time he’s done. He’ll be throwing out the ceremonial first pitch on August 31, when the San Francisco Giants visit Chicago to take on the Cubs.
McCaffery’s appearance is part of a promotion called “Hawkeye Day with the Cubs,” which might seem like an odd pairing when looked at from a distance. Consider, however, that Iowa shares a border with Illinois, and things become a little clearer. In fact, the Iowa Cubs are the big league club’s AAA affiliate, located in Des Moines.
According to a story in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, McCaffery is confident, bordering on hubris. He echoed callow fireballer Nuke LaLoosh of Bull Durham when asked how he planned to get the ball over the plate in his debut: “Straight heat,” McCaffery promised.
Hawkeye fans might be forgiven if they wonder why McCaffery — just 29-37 in two seasons in Iowa City — is making cute on the diamond instead of building a Big Ten contender. Then again, they might also want to consider that Chicago is one of the nation’s recruiting hotbeds, and it can’t hurt for McCaffery to show his face there as often as possible, in as high-profile a situation as possible. This appearance fits the bill nicely in that respect.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He likes to crack wise and talk college hoops @stfhoops on Twitter.