DURHAM — Jon Scheyer, Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas picked the right sport.
The three seniors on Duke's NCAA championship basketball team threw ceremonial first pitches Thursday night before the Durham Bulls' home opener.
Scheyer threw low and slow. Zoubek's pitch was high and wild, and Lance Thomas bounced the ball to the plate as the Blue Devils were honored at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Before the game, local dignitaries, including Durham Mayor Bill Bell, congratulated Duke's team at a pep rally outside the stadium at the American Tobacco Campus. Bell unveiled one of the many signs that will be placed at entrances to Durham honoring the 2010 NCAA champions.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski expressed his thanks for the outpouring of support.
"Everyone on this stage has a smile on his face," he said, "and there are a couple of reasons for those smiles. One is because we won the national championship. Two is because we live in Durham."
The crowd erupted in cheers at every mention of Duke's 61-59 win over Butler in the NCAA title game played April 5. Fans chanted "One more year!" at forward Kyle Singler, the Final Four most outstanding player who's trying to decide whether to return for his senior season or enter the NBA Draft. (A Duke spokesman said no announcement from Singler is expected until at least after this weekend.)
Thomas, a senior co-captain, took the microphone and talked about how hard the seniors worked over their careers to become champions.
"It took us four years to get here," he said, "and to be able to come back to Durham and Cameron [Indoor Stadium] and see a banner that we put up, there's no better thing."
In the middle of the third inning, the team received a standing ovation as the players and coaches were introduced. Earlier, Krzyzewski lavished praise on his team.
He said he's more refreshed than he has ever been after the end of a season because of the way the Duke players returned every good thing the coaches gave them.
"I've had 30 teams at Duke," he said. "This is the most together team I've had an opportunity to coach."
It was obvious that he enjoyed having them together again Thursday night.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-829-8942