Wolves’ Love shows his stuff on the mound

BY foxsports • September 26, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS – Kevin Love knew the numbers.

Sixty feet. About 40,000 fans. The higher the speed, the better.

This wasn't Little League anymore, or even ninth grade, which was the last time Love pitched a baseball. Yet there he was at Target Field, atop the mound, ready to throw out the first pitch, nervous.

Yes, Love, an Olympian and two-time NBA All-Star, was nervous.

"I just hope I don't throw it over the catcher's head or I don't leave it five feet short," Love said.

On Wednesday, the man who plays basketball 82 games a year in front of thousands of fans was worried about becoming a viral YouTube video sensation. He'd weighed the varying levels of embarrassment for different potential flubs, deciding that it would be worse to bounce the pitch than to overthrow it. It seemed as if he'd gone over all the negatives in his head: the distance to the plate, the Yankees relaxing in the opposing dugout, even the number of fans watching. In those terms, a first pitch might be the most daunting celebrity appearance an athlete can have.

Even the Vikings' gjallarhorn would be easier, Love laughed. There's less room for human error there. And this is Kevin Love, competitive, focused Kevin Love, who wants to prove that his teenaged success in baseball was no fluke.

Love likes to say that baseball was his sport as a kid. That's his schtick, in a way, because it's really tough to imagine that he could be better at another sport than he is at basketball. Love did play, though, throughout his childhood, and in the end, it was his father's persuasion and a lack of good baseball coaches that pushed him finally and completely into basketball.

"I wish I could have seen where (baseball) took me, but in today's day and age you have to play one sport year-round," Love said.

At Target Field, though, his baseball background showed. Love didn't look half-bad in his personalized No. 42 Twins jersey, and he fit in as he palled around the clubhouse and batting cages with Joe Mauer. His blue Converse and red, white and blue striped socks marked him as an outsider, but other than that, Love blended in. He has a decent windup, a remnant of those middle-school days, and he spent time in the outfield playing catch to warm up for his big debut.

The experience and the practice paid off. Love's pitch to Justin Morneau was a little outside, maybe a bit high, too, but he said that it looked like it might have been in the strike zone if it had been over the plate. There was no bouncing or overthrowing, so all in all, Love was pleased.

"All my warmups looked good," Love said. "I guess I got there, I just got caught up with being with all the fans out there are Target Field. But I still had fun."

So much fun, in fact, that he'll be back on Friday. Love was only able to take indoor batting practice with a machine, and he wanted the chance to hit against live pitching on the field. With a day game, that wasn't possible, but manager Ron Gardenhire and the Twins extended an invitation for him to return before Friday's game against Detroit. Love had already made a bet with one of his friends that he'd be able to hit a ball out of the park, so of course he'll be back.

He's already envisioning that home run, even though he's only picked up a baseball bat a few times since he quit the sport. But really, would you expect anything else from Kevin Love?

Follow Joan Niesen on Twitter.


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