Introduced as a "tall righthander," Willie Cauley-Stein took the mound at Whitaker Bank Ballpark on Thursday night. His assignment: throw the ceremonial first pitch before the Lexington Legends' home opener.
"I knew that I was not going to bounce it off the ground or throw it wide-left off the ground," he said when asked about his first pitch and two subsequent do-overs. "I knew I was going to have it in the air. I just didn't know where it was going in the air."
The first pitch, clocked at 66 mph, sailed a good 10 feet off the ground and about that far off home plate to the third base side.
The second pitch, clocked at 67 mph, showed the strike zone was not impossible.
The third, clocked at 74 mph, zipped over the inside corner for a right-handed batter.
As the Legends played the West Virginia Power, Cauley-Stein met with the media in a corporate box.
"I wish I could throw 10 more," he said. "It would have been fun."
Cauley-Stein, who claimed to have played all nine baseball positions at one time or another, graded his first pitch as merely satisfactory.
"Probably like a 'C,'" he said of the grade the pitch deserved. "I'm going to give myself a 'C' just because I used to play baseball. I expect a little bit more out of myself than a 'C.' Give or take, I haven't played (baseball) in like four years."
Of course, Cauley-Stein has played basketball the last three seasons for the University of Kentucky (hence a recording of On, On U of K on the ballpark sound system as he took the mound).
The sting of his last game, UK's 71-64 loss to Wisconsin in the Final Four less than two weeks ago, remained fresh. It was still too soon to bask in UK's historic accomplishments in 2014-15: a record-tying 38 victories, the second team to post an 18-0 regular-season record in the Southeastern Conference, for starters.
"I feel like it's all good," Cauley-Stein said of the season. "But we were expecting to have a ring on our fingers. We were expecting to have confetti come down on us.
"And to not have that is just a letdown. I don't know. It's just going to feel empty. Probably for the rest of your lives, you're going to feel empty."
Cauley-Stein, whose impact as a defender made him the first player ever voted to The Associated Press first All-American team with a scoring average of less than 10 points, said he would begin preparing for the NBA Draft in earnest next week.
He had heard about former UK player Anthony Davis' big performance propelling the New Orleans Pelicans into the NBA playoffs. Of course, he said, he'd like to do the same someday.
"For sure," he said. "That's everybody's goal. That's in everybody's head. A-D is just a beast."
Perhaps as soon as next season, Cauley-Stein will be assigned to defend Davis. It's a possibility that gave him pause.
"We'll see," he said in breaking the temporary silence created by the question. "It might be a job, for real."
When asked if he had confidence in being a lottery pick in the June 25 NBA Draft, Cauley-Stein said, "I do."
Then he added, "You just don't know what's going to happen. You can just go in there with a good mentality."
Cauley-Stein said he would go into workouts for NBA teams with a primary goal in mind.
"My energy is going to be really high," he said. "I'm going to show them I have a high motor, and I'm willing to work. I'm willing to learn. And I think that's the biggest thing."
Other than the ceremonial first pitch, Cauley-Stein's immediate objective was signing autograph. A line of fans seeking autographs and pictures before the game was several hundred deep. After speaking to reporters, he returned to a table on the ballpark's outer concourse to resume signing and posing.
Cauley-Stein acknowledged the fans' love. To make the point, he noted how he would be prepared to sign and pose if he were at Wal-Mart at 2 a.m.
"It's part of what it is," he said. "You've got to embrace it here. Because if you don't, you're going to get ate up."