CLEVELAND -- Cavaliers All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving tried his hand at baseball, at least for one night.
Irving took fly balls and participated in batting practice with the Cleveland Indians before Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Angels. Irving, wearing an Indians No. 2 batting practice jersey with his name on the back, dressed in an empty locker in Cleveland’s clubhouse before taking the field.
Irving was greeted warmly by several of Cleveland’s players. He was hugged by Nick Swisher, who referred to him as “Uncle Drew,” the character Irving plays on television commercials. Irving also received a glove from Mike Aviles and a bat from Michael Bourn to go along with some good-natured pointers on how to handle himself when he was on the field. After listening for several minutes, Irving laughed and said, “Let’s take this slow, guys.”
Irving autographed a Duke basketball jersey for pitcher Trevor Bauer, who started Monday’s game. Irving also threw out the first pitch to outfielder Michael Brantley and was given a loud ovation when introduced to the crowd.
Irving’s future with the Cavaliers is one of several issues the team will deal with this summer. Cleveland must decide whether to offer him a maximum, five-year contract extension next month. Irving has given mixed signals about whether he would sign the extension if it’s offered.
The Cavaliers have the No. 1 pick in this month’s draft and are also still searching for a new coach to replace Mike Brown, who was fired last month.
On Monday, Irving took his shot at hitting. As players from both teams watched, he made contact on all 14 pitches he saw in his two sessions in the batting cage. His best swings resulted in a line drive over second base and a hard ground ball into left field. Irving jokingly tipped his cap when he finished.
Irving is the second Cleveland sports celebrity to visit Progressive Field this month. Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel was scheduled to throw out the first pitch during the team’s last homestand, but that plan was scrubbed by a lengthy rain delay. Manziel spent time talking with Indians players.
Indians manager Terry Francona likes the idea of his team meeting athletes from other sports.
“Kyrie was very welcome to do this,” he said. “The players enjoy it. It’s all positive.”