Roberts, Smith Appear at Pelicans Night at Zephyr Field
As the second and third innings of Saturday’s minor league baseball game were being played between the New Orleans Zephyrs and Tacoma Rainiers, Pelicans point guard Brian Roberts and center Jason Smith signed autographs for a long line of spectators near the left-field bleachers. While both players enjoyed the opportunity to meet and take photos with fans in a relaxed environment, Roberts also received an unexpected bonus, courtesy of a thoughtful Pelicans season ticket holder.
On Pelicans Night at Zephyr Field, longtime basketball fan Bill Jerome arrived with a wrapped gift for Roberts – a University of Dayton bib for Roberts’ 2-month-old son Cole, who was born on March 8. Jerome, who happened to meet Roberts in a New Orleans area park this spring, ordered the white and red bib from Dayton’s online store and brought it to the Triple A game.
“That was very cool,” said Roberts, a former Dayton standout, of the surprising present.
The same could be said of the Pelicans’ annual event at Zephyr Field, which began Saturday with the 6-foot-1 point guard throwing the ceremonial first pitch in front of 7,429 fans. A smiling Roberts, who has not played organized baseball since grade school, joked that his toss was “Ball 1,” as it sailed a bit out of the strike zone. Smith good-naturedly described Roberts’ offering as “high and away.”
The 7-foot Smith received non-stop supportive greetings from Pelicans fans who wished the efficient frontcourt reserve well in his ongoing rehabilitation from left shoulder surgery. The injury brought a premature end to Smith’s 2012-13 season in March and prevented him from participating in Saturday’s first pitch along with his teammate Roberts.
Roberts actually became the second Pelicans point guard to throw the ceremonial first pitch at a Zephyrs game this spring. On April 19, Greivis Vasquez did the honors, prior to a Zephyrs 4-0 shutout win vs. Memphis (the Zephyrs were not as successful this time, losing 14-1 to Tacoma following Roberts’ pitch).
Following their autograph and photo session, Roberts and Smith spent the next inning in the radio booth, as special guests on the Zephyrs’ live broadcast.