14 Dec 2021 | 01:53 | Baseball
ST. PETERSBURG — Billy Mohl’s ceremonial first pitch was a bit high and outside. Still catchable, he insisted. But it got past a slow-moving Rocky behind home plate and nearly rolled to the backstop.
Nearby, Tampa Bay Rays left-hander Shane McClanahan threw up his arms in mock disgust.
“Come on, you’ve got to do better than that,” McClanahan said with a smirk.
It was all in good fun Sunday — USF Day at Tropicana Field, a good-time gathering of alumni and friends during the Rays-Minnesota Twins game. The annual affair drew 1,200 USF ticket-buyers who sat together down the first-base line and were treated to a special gift — a Rays cap decorated with USF’s green and gold colors.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Mohl, the USF baseball coach. “This is the first time I’ve had to do this (ceremonial first pitch) and it’s different than the way you normally throw off the round. I was just trying to throw it nice and easy. Rocky should’ve had it.”2021 USF Day at Trop – Billy Mohl 1st Pitch
Mohl got to reunite with McClanahan, the former USF pitcher who has become the Rays’ ace. McClanahan, a rookie, is 9-5 with a 3.76 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 105 1/3 innings.
“I owe a lot to coach and a lot to USF,” McClanahan said. “It’s a great school and a great baseball program.”
Mohl, who guided the Bulls to an American Athletic Conference Tournament championship and an NCAA Regional title before reaching USF’s first-ever Super Regional, was applauded and given high-fives as he traveled throughout the Trop’s stands.
“It was a great end to the season and it’s fun getting to talk about it and have people show appreciation,” Mohl said. “It’s something we’ll never forget. But I’m just a typical coach. We’re already on to the next one (season).”
USF officials, including interim president Rhea Law and alumni association executive director Bill McCausland, and boosters used the game to mix and mingle while showing their Bulls colors.
“We weren’t able to do this event last year because of COVID, so it’s great to have our USF family together here,” McCausland said. “We are solidly behind the Rays and they have been great in partnering with us.
“It’s just one of those fun afternoons to get out and support our home major-league baseball team, while also showing pride in our school. It’s a fun thing to do and the Rays are always a good time. We all hope they go all the way.”