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Mathurin and Brown tossed the first pitch, Pacers players meet fans at Indy Indians game
Four Pacers spent a few hours at the ballpark Friday night and the Indians got the win.
The Indianapolis Indians hosted four Pacers players to Victory Field Friday night for Pacers Sports & Entertainment Night.
Three players were publicly introduced to Indy sports fans for the first time — Aaron Nesmith and rookies Bennedict Mathurin, Kendall Brown — and one player, Goga Bitadze, learned about baseball for the first time.
“It’s my first time watching,” Bitadze said standing in front of the backstop net minutes before the first pitch. “I don’t know a lot about the rules to be honest.”
Bitadze has been away most of the offseason, home in Georgia and training with his country’s national team. He returned to Indy for about a month to train and work with the team’s medical staff.
He’ll be entering his fourth season in the NBA and the final year under contract. He’s just 23, but he’s now one of the oldest on the team; he’s the second longest-tenured Pacer behind Myles Turner.
Crazy, isn’t it?
Even though baseball is brand new to him, he did not elect to toss a ceremonial first pitch. He left that to the draft picks.
“I don’t want to be that guy,” Bitadze, wearing a black Off White bucket hat, said with a big smile. “I’m sure I could throw really good, but I’ll let the rookies do it.”
So at 6:58 p.m., an announced crowd of 8,991 saw Mathurin and Brown throw a baseball at the same time to different catchers at home plate. This got things started before the Indians, the Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, played the Louisville Bats.
The players seemed to enjoy it, smiling and taking more photos afterward and before one more stop on their first visit to Victory Field, one of the best minor league ballparks in the country.
And they each were wearing custom alternate Indians jerseys that were navy and said “Circle City” in script across the front and had their last name and jersey number on the back. It was well done by the Indians.
(See the players throw out the first pitch in the video below.)
Prior to the first pitch, the players signed autographs in the center field plaza. The line ran west for about half of the outfield as fans were eager to meet the guys even though they’re not yet household names in town.
These community outreach events are good for the players, and it was also great for the organization. Twenty minutes later, players were shuffled off to a private party held outside of left field for season-ticket holders. They each sat on a stool and took photos with more fans for another 20 minutes. These loyal fans were given a miniature yellow bat that had the Pacers logo on the barrel.
Finally, they walked to behind the plate, then down the steps to the field for that first pitch. It won’t take long for Pacers fans to get to know Mathurin. The lottery pick is a priority for the team and he carries himself with confidence that will be beneficial for an inexperienced player on a rebuilding roster.
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Brown, meanwhile, does not yet have a contract agreement in place but it is not alarming.
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are still members of the Brooklyn Nets and so that has the league at a standstill. In turn, a team like the Pacers is sitting back waiting to possibly get involved as a third team while also being open for business in terms of being able to take on a bad contract for additional assets.
None of that can happen until the big deals, if they do happen, are completed.
Nesmith didn’t officially become a Pacer until early July when team officials were in Las Vegas. So was he. He then played in their final three summer league games. Without any practice time, he averaged 9.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.
As he explained to me after his Pacers debut, it’s going to take some time and he’s focused on two things: being more consistent with his shot and becoming a reliable 3-and-D guy.
He’s spent the majority of the summer back home in Charleston, but he came to town for a long weekend to potentially find a home.
Temperatures were in the high 80s and you felt the humidity, but it was a good night at the ballpark. One of the last Friday night games before kids return to school and the day is soon dominated by high school football again.
The Indians won 6-1 and then fireworks filled the sky to complete the night.