Images of wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald at the D-Backs' opener, where he threw out the first pitch
Larry Fitzgerald makes football look easy, but put him on a baseball diamond, and the star Cardinals wide receiver is more Regular Joe than Joltin' Joe.
While Fitzgerald didn't claim to be nervous when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Diamondbacks' Opening Day on Monday, he knew a bad toss could land him on a lowlight reel.
"I just didn't want to do anything crazy," Fitzgerald said. "(Rap artist) 50 Cent put it in the dugout. I saw (President Barack) Obama short-hop it in there. I wanted to make sure I got it all the way to the catcher, so that's why I went with my changeup. That's a comfortable pitch for me."
Fitzgerald delivered a strike to D-Backs left-hander Patrick Corbin behind the plate and had an ear-to-ear grin while walking off the mound. Always humble after football games, Fitzgerald couldn't help but gloat about the movement
on his pitch.
"Corbin told me to come inside so I said, 'You know, I'll go in there,'" Fitzgerald said. "It worked out for me."
Even though a player like Fitzgerald is a world-class athlete in his sport, he marvels at the abilities of other professionals much like a fan would. As he watched the Diamondbacks and Rockies hitters routinely square up pitches on Monday, Fitzgerald was impressed.
"Hitting a baseball that's moving 90-plus mph is the hardest thing to do in sports, I believe," Fitzgerald said. "And it's so much more mental than it is physical. You go 4-for-4 one day and come back and go 0-for-4 the next. Same guy seeing the same pitches. To be able to dig yourself out of those ruts that guys go through periodically throughout the season, it just shows the mental fortitude that they have to exhibit. I don't know if we have to deal with anything quite that difficult in football."
Diamondbacks star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt attended a Cardinals game in January and watched warmups from the field. He has the same type of respect for football players.
"Those guys are, physically, probably more talented than just about every other sport out there," Goldschmidt said. "That was fun to be able to be on the field and see those guys up close. There's so much speed in that game, and the physicality."
There are the rare players – Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders, Brian Jordan – who have shown the proficiency to play both baseball and football at the highest level, but for many others it's a pipe dream. Fitzgerald played baseball growing up but now only does underhand slow-pitch.
"I couldn't hit anything that moved, but if you threw it down the middle I could usually get my bat on it," Fitzgerald said. "That's why I stick to softball now."
While baseball and football players have skill-sets that vary wildly, Goldschmidt said there is one thing that links all professional athletes together.
"Whatever sport it is, whether it's basketball, football, hockey, baseball – we've got the Olympics coming up so throw those in – you know all the top guys prepare," Goldschmidt said. "There are some differences but a lot of similarities. Guys put in a lot of work, there's a lot of sacrifice, and they take their jobs very seriously."