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Jeff Eisenberg

Add pitching and singing to Brad Stevens' list of talents

An invitation to sing "Take Me out to the Ball Game" during the seventh inning stretch at Wrigley Field is a perk that the average tone-deaf college basketball coach might be better off avoiding.

Ace the performance, and you shake hands with a few alums, relish the memory for a day or two and then move on with your life. Flub it, and the blooper video is sure to be immortalized on YouTube alongside the likes of Ozzy Osborne and Mike Ditka.

Fortunately for Butler coach Brad Stevens, it seems he's nearly as comfortable carrying a tune as he is pacing the sideline. The 33-year-old lifelong Cubs fan showed up at Wrigley Field on Monday night unflappable as ever, coolly lobbing the ceremonial first pitch right down the middle for a strike and then knocking his rendition of "Take Me out to the Ball Game" out of the park.

"This might be beyond your dreams," Stevens told WXIN-TV in Indianapolis. "You dream about being able to achieve things in your profession, but to be recognized in this regard, you look at that as being reserved for someone else. It certainly is humbling."

Also humbling for Stevens was a letter he received from Cubs manager Lou Piniella last month as Butler was preparing for the Final Four. Piniella watched the Bulldogs' surprising NCAA tournament run, learned Stevens had grown up a Cubs fan and decided to offer his congratulations to the young Butler coach.

"I just wanted to let him know Cubs nation was behind him," Piniella told WXIN. "You appreciate when people in the coaching profession do really, really good jobs and see the fruits of their labor by seeing their teams do really well. This guy is one of the bright young coaches in the NCAA. I'm sure he's going to have a lot of success."

Stevens left Wrigley Field with two keepsakes Monday night: the personalized Cubs jersey he plans to frame at his Indianapolis house and the ball from his first pitch that he had Cubs pitcher James Russell autograph to his son, Brady.

About the only aspect of the night that didn't go right was the baseball game itself. Florida won 4-2, which shows even a man who can do no wrong like Stevens these days still can't save the Cubs.

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