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Arizona’s Rodriguez, ASU’s Graham to throw out first pitches at D’backs opener

Rich Rodriguez talks to quarterback Matt Scott at a scrimmage in Glendale last month. Photo by Pat Shanahan, The Arizona Republic

Arizona Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez has an even better idea than teaming with ASU coach Todd Graham to throw out the first pitches before the Arizona Diamondbacks’ season-opener.

“It would probably be more exciting if he was batting and I was pitching,” Rodriguez said. “Or the other way around.”

As it is, the two new college football head coaches in the state will have to settle for dueling Duel in the Desert deliveries on Friday afternoon at Chase Field. In the never-give-an-inch world of coaching, you can bet each will be looking to fire a strike with slightly more velocity than the other guy.

Rodriguez, 48, said he hasn’t much thrown a baseball since he was a high school infielder, other than a couple of cases of tossing a ceremonial first pitch at a minor-league game.

This is the big leagues now.

“I better throw a little to get loose,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t want to embarrass myself.”

Having Graham throw out the first pitch in his home city makes sense, but Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick wouldn’t miss an opportunity to also highlight Rodriguez, his good friend. Kendrick is a West Virginia alum, where Rodriguez played football and served as head coach from 2001 to 2007.

“He was a huge supporter,” Rodriguez said.

“I didn’t know him until I started coached there as a head coach, but then after I got to know him, we became very close friends. I actually came out every May to see him in Phoenix.”

Rodriguez saw a lot of Graham in 2001 and 2002, when Graham served as a defensive assistant at West Virginia.

“We’ve always had a great relationship,” Rodriguez said.

“We haven’t talked since he got the (ASU) job. We would keep in touch before then, but we will probably keep in touch a whole lot less now just because it’s our rivalry and we play each other.

“We’ll be friendly, but we just won’t talk about football and what each other is doing, because that is the competitive side of both of us.”

Rodriguez won’t be able to stay for the entire game, which begins at 4:10 p.m., because he has to be back in Tucson for a Friday night practice/scrimmage that is closed to the public and media. The Wildcats will be working on campus under the lights at the now-vacant home of the UA baseball team, Frank Sancet Stadium.

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