ARLINGTON – It’s very, very safe to assume that retirement really agrees with Dirk Nowitzki.
“It’s been a blast,” the former Dallas Mavericks’ superstar said Wednesday night. “It’s been everything I’ve dreamed of – drinking everything and eating everything in sight on vacation and not really worrying about anything about staying in shape.
“I think, like I said, eventually I’m going to find a little routine, I’m going to start working out again and enjoying that. But as of now I literally have zero motivation to go work out.”
Nowitzki was all smiles as he threw out the first pitch before Wednesday’s game at Globe Life Park between the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles. He and his family just returned on Tuesday night from vacationing in the Caribbean’s and at Disney World in Orlando, and he was discussing all the pizza, ice cream and other appetizing delights that he mostly shied away from during his 21-year career with the Mavs.
In other words, Nowitzki has been in full chill mode since he retired at the conclusion of the regular season nearly two months ago. “Fun” has been the operative word for the 14-time All-Star.
“I was ready for it,” Nowitzki said, referring to retirement. “This season was tough for me. I’ve moved on.
“I haven’t worked out once yet in (almost) two months. I played a little bit of tennis, but I haven’t really seen the inside of a gym, so that’s different. Just letting go and enjoying the family.”
On Wednesday, Nowitzki enjoyed throwing out the first pitch at the Rangers’ game. The seven-footer wound up and delivered to shortstop Elvis Andrus, who was the ceremonial catcher. The pitch danced to the outside corner of the plate and Andrus got a glove on it, but promptly dropped it.
“Clearly an error on the catcher,” Nowitzki said, while laughing. “Elvis can’t even catch a cold. He’s got to get that. It was a little outside.
“I kind of practiced a little bit in the back, but the only real thing on my mind is, ‘Don’t bounce it, don’t bounce it.’ So I tried to keep it high. It went a little high and left, but he’s still got to catch that. He made me look bad.”
Rangers manager Chris Woodward was in the dugout before the game discussing with Nowitzki about how to approach the first pitch. From a managerial standpoint, Woodward thought Nowitzki was on-point.
“I thought he did good,” Woodward said after the Rangers nipped the Orioles, 2-1, in 12 innings. “He threw a little cutter and Elvis couldn’t handle it.
“I tried to show him a little grip. He had a two-seam grip, so I don’t know if that made it cut. His mechanics were alright. I’d like to see him drive a little more and use his legs, but I know he’s played 21 years in the NBA, so I don’t expect him to have too much legs left. But he was pretty good.”
Left fielder Delino DeShields explained that for tall athletes of Nowitzki’s ilk, throwing strikes down the sweet spot of the plate has its challenges.
“I’m 5-9, but potentially for bigger guys they have to use their legs more to get it down in the (strike) zone,” DeShields said. “I saw it, but I know Elvis missed it. I don’t know if he threw a cutter or what.”
Right fielder Nomar Mazara was just delighted to see Nowitzki at the ballpark and putting a smile on everyone’s face.
“To have him throw the first pitch means a lot, and seeing him do all the things he did for this city means a lot,” Mazara said. “He’s a great guy.
“But Elvis has to catch that ball. It was funny.”
This was the fourth time Nowitzki has thrown out the first pitch at a Rangers’ game. So how did Wednesday’s pitch stack up against the other three?
“I remember one time, my first time, I was a little nervous and all I kept hearing is, ‘Don’t bounce it, don’t bounce it,’ ” Nowitzki said. “I threw it super high and I remember Michael Young was kind of in a stance, and then he saw how high it was and he had to literally do a full leap and grab it like an outfielder, so that was a bad one.
“But I never bounced it, so I guess there’s that. And I think the other two weren’t that bad.”
Although he didn’t grow up playing baseball, Nowitzki has become an avid fan of the sport. So much so that he’ll be hosting his celebrity baseball game for the eighth time on Friday at 7 p.m. at Dr Pepper Ballpark in Frisco.
Asked about his role in Friday’s game, Nowitzki – with tongue firmly planted in cheek – said, “Yeah, I’m a hitter. I’m a designated hitter. No field play at all. Just sub me in to hit.”
Then, Nowitzki got serious and added: “(Baseball is) a fun sport. I’m not very good at it, but I enjoy it. I enjoy watching it at all times. I’ll see on Friday how bad I am.
“It’s fun, but it’s a lot harder than it looks. Just a routine infield play looks so easy on TV, and when you’re actually doing it — the catch and the throw to first (base) and just getting somebody out in our game on Friday is a miracle. As in any sport, it’s a lot harder when you’re out there than on TV.”
Nowitzki said he’s just been enjoying life and making the rounds since he retired from the NBA. Last month he was part of the “scarfing” celebration prior to an FC Dallas soccer game, and later scored on a penalty kick during a halftime ceremony.
So how does Nowitzki’s soccer game compare to his baseball game?
“I‘m pretty bad at both,” he said. “You’ve probably seen plenty of clips online. My last soccer game, two years ago, I was awful.
“I tried a bicycle kick and my hips weren’t flexible enough and I ended up on the backside. And the last couple of games my baseball game wasn’t very good either. The only really thing I’m halfway decent at is tennis. I play that all the time. That’s the one sport I do for charity that I’m halfway decent at.”
Nowitzki added that he’s also steadily getting halfway decent at enjoying the finer things of life.
“I love pizza, I love pizza,” Nowitzki said. “I had it probably on vacation every other day. I love sweets, ice cream, I love desserts. I’ve tried all sorts of junk food already.
“My body’s not really used to it, so it’s been catching up with me a little bit.”
Nowitzki, who plans to take his family to Europe this summer, is excited about the next chapter of his life. But he’s nowhere close to deciding what that’s going to be.
“I want to get away for a year or two and travel and enjoy the family,” said Nowitzki, who turns 41 on June 19. “I’m sure there’s another challenge out there waiting for me. Whether that’s with the Mavs or in another field, I have no idea.
“But as of now I don’t think that’s something I think about. I want to enjoy, I want to get away, I want to do some stuff that I wasn’t able to do the last 20 years. Eventually that’s going to get a little old and then I’ll need a new challenge in life. But as of now I haven’t gotten to that point yet.”
— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) June 6, 2019