WATCH: Bronco Mendenhall throws out ceremonial first pitch at Isotopes game

Apr. 11—Whether he needed to didn't matter — Bronco Mendenhall wasn't warming up.

"Been a long time since I picked up a baseball, so good thing there's a net back there ... Just give me the ball and we'll see what happens," New Mexico's head football coach said with a smile after practice on Thursday morning.

As it turned out, no net nor warmup was needed.

On Thursday evening, Mendenhall walked down to the dirt track at Isotopes Park with a group of UNM assistant coaches and staffers, slipped on a white home Isotopes jersey and chatted briefly with the group in the minutes before his scheduled first pitch prior to Albuquerque's game against Sugar Land.

Then he took the mound, waving to the crowd. Mendenhall pointed to outfielder Jimmy Herron, ready to catch the ball, and reared back into his windup on the edge of the mound.

And after going an estimated 10 years without picking up a baseball, Mendenhall delivered the pitch — for a strike.

"Yeah," he added that morning. "I love baseball."

Though best known for his career coaching football, Mendenhall's roots on the diamond go just as far back. The former BYU and Virginia head coach said he played second base at American Fork (Utah) High School, winning a state championship as a senior in 1984 with a runner-up finish the season prior.

After committing to play both football and baseball at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, he moved out to center field and hit leadoff for the Badgers for two seasons before transferring to Oregon State and focusing solely on football.

UNM is entering its first season with Mendenhall at the helm. The Lobos are halfway through spring practice and will host a spring game on Saturday, April 20 at University Stadium.