On a clear night in Los Angeles, hundreds of Matadors — including students, faculty, staff and alumni — gathered for CSUN Night as the Los Angeles Dodgers took on the Milwaukee Brewers at Dodger Stadium on Aug. 16. CSUN men’s basketball head coach Reggie Theus, a Southern California native and lifelong Dodger fan, represented the university and was chosen to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Theus arrived at the start of batting practice and met several Dodger players and members of the coaching staff, including manager Don Mattingly and All-Star outfielder Yasiel Puig. Mattingly, a big basketball fan, recalled becoming a fan of the CSUN coach when Theus was a standout guard at UNLV, before his distinguished 13-year NBA career.
Theus also reconnected with Dodger President Stan Kasten, who was the general manager of the Atlanta Hawks in the 1980s and signed the All-Star guard as a free agent. Dodgers dignitaries such as Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda and perennial All-Star Ron Cey also stopped by.
When it came time to get to the business at hand, Theus donned a Dodger jersey with his familiar No. 24 on the back and threw a few warm-up tosses in front of the Dodger dugout, before firing a strike over the plate to the roaring approval of the more than 50,000 in attendance.
“I just didn’t want to bounce it,” Theus said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I’ve been such a big baseball fan my entire life. I was a baseball fanatic before I ever picked up a basketball.”
At a young age, the Inglewood product fell in love with the Dodgers. Days were spent outside recreating iconic moments and practicing for a time when he’d shine under the lights on the diamond.
“There are a lot of people that will say I would’ve been a better baseball player than basketball player,” Theus said. “I was on two or three different baseball teams at the same time. We used to play a game [when I was younger] called ‘Great Play’ with a hedge that was in my neighbor’s yard. My friend would be on one end of the yard and I’d be 10 steps from the bush. He would take the ball and throw it over the bush, and I’d dive over the bush, catch the ball and raise the glove up to make the ‘Great Play.’”
Following the ceremonial first pitch, Theus joined the hundreds of Matadors at the game, including CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Brandon E. Martin, and various head coaches and athletics staff, to watch a highly competitive game between two of the top teams in the National League.
CSUN Night at Dodger Stadium is an annual event organized by the CSUN Alumni Association. Association members purchased a block of tickets to the game so that members of the CSUN community could sit together in reserved sections of the stadium. The Matador contingent was particularly loud when Theus threw his first pitch.
The night brought quite a bit of visibility to the CSUN Athletic Department. As Theus took part in a variety of interviews that day, he spoke about the “Rise of the Matadors” pride campaign. He talked about what a great time it was to be a Matador — in athletics, academics and the community at large.
With the start of the fall semester looming, Theus embarks upon his second season at the helm of the men’s basketball program at CSUN, looking to make a return trip to the Big West Tournament Championship and earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The 2014-15 season will begin with CSUN’s annual Matador Madness event in October, before the first regular-season games at the new Blacktop at The Matadome in November.