MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The Redbirds welcomed the newest members of the Memphis sports family to AutoZone Park Friday night when 2009 Grizzlies draftees Hasheem Thabeet, DeMarre Carroll and Sam Young traded in the familiarity of the basketball hardwood for a stint on the baseball diamond.
As part of the freshly-minted Memphians coming-out party, Thabeet, Carroll and Young signed autographs in the entry-plaza of AutoZone Park before the Redbirds game against Omaha and then capped things off by tossing the evening's first pitch.
Thabeet, the Grizzlies first selection and the second overall pick in Thursday's draft, makes his way to the Bluff City after three years with the University of Connecticut. The Tanzania-native averaged 13.6 points and 10.8 rebounds per game during a 2008-2009 season that saw the center lead the Huskies to an appearance in the Final Four.
Carroll and Young join the Grizzlies after senior seasons at the Universities of Missouri and Pittsburgh respectively. Carroll led the Tigers with 16.6 points per game, while Young averaged 19.2 points in his final season with the Panthers.
In a day of firsts that saw these NBA rookies introduce themselves to the community and team they are now a part of, not everyone was a first-timer when it came time to take the mound for the evening's first pitch.
"Oh, I've done it before," said Grizzlies first-round pick and second pick overall Hasheem Thabeet. "I got to throw out the first pitch at a Dodgers-Padres game. It's really fun and good to go out there and have a good time."
The experience showed, with each player successfully making the 60-foot, six-inch trip from the pitcher's mound to home plate, leading one to believe that maybe if basketball did not work out, perhaps a foray into professional baseball would make a nice backup career.
"I have not done it in a while, but I think I might make a pretty good pitcher, I guess," said Young. "I don't really watch baseball but I do watch it some."
For now, basketball is the focus and Thursday's draft eased a months-long stretch of anxiety that had all three draft picks wondering not only where they would begin their professional careers, but where they would call home.
"It felt great to finally get my name called," said Grizzlies second-round pick Sam Young. "It is nice knowing where I am finally going to make a home and really it is just a relief."
Although their first day in the River City was a crash course of meet-and-greets, shuffling from event to event, Memphis is already feeling like it is the right fit for the three.
"Oh, I love the city," said Young. "They have given us a warm welcome and it feels like it is exactly like what I wanted."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.