NEW YORK — Leading off at the Subway Series, new St. John’s men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino.
Just before the New York Yankees faced the Mets on Tuesday night at Citi Field, the Hall of Fame basketball coach threw out a ceremonial first pitch to Cleveland Cavaliers star Donovan Mitchell — who played for Pitino at Louisville.
Mitchell’s father, also named Donovan, works for the Mets as Senior Director, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
“I’m friends with Donovan Mitchell Sr. as well, and when I found out that young Donovan was catching me, I thought it was awesome. Because I love him, I love everything about their family. I just hope I don’t throw it too hard for him and hurt him,” the 70-year-old Pitino said with a laugh as he spoke near the Mets’ dugout while the Yankees finished batting practice.
To get ready for his big moment on the mound, Pitino practiced a bit earlier in the day.
“I threw it for the first time today in 35 years,” he said. “It hurt.”
Wearing a No. 7 St. John’s baseball jersey, Pitino received a nice ovation when he was introduced to the Queens crowd. He went into his windup from the pitching rubber and short-hopped Mitchell a little wide of the plate.
Mitchell was wearing a No. 1 Mookie Wilson Mets jersey.
Pitino was hired by St. John’s, located about 5 miles from Citi Field, in March after a successful stint at nearby Iona, a small school located in New Rochelle, just north of New York City. He was born in the Big Apple and grew up a baseball fan on Long Island following New York stars such as Mickey Mantle of the Yankees and Tom Seaver of the Mets.
“I truly rooted for both teams,” Pitino said. “But I have felt such a warm embrace, it’s been a lot of fun.”
And now, he’s certainly in a New York state of mind.
“I’m excited, because this is New York. Everything about New York is awesome,” Pitino said. “And to me, not having to move, be back in the Big East, can’t get any better.”