BRADENTON -- Manatee County School Superintendent Rick Mills toed the rubber atop the mound -- not at the bottom in the grass -- before throwing out the starting pitch for the Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Minnesota Twins game Wednesday at McKechnie Field.
It was the last home game of spring training for the Pirates in the first full week as superintendent for Mills, who was excited about throwing the pitch.
"I haven't warmed up yet but I think I can lob it on," Mills said, smiling ear to ear. He then delivered a strike.
When working in Chicago, Mills said Adm. Michael Mullens, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff announced to Mayor Richard Daley that he would be throwing a starting pitch.
"There was nothing like seeing Mayor Daley showing Adm. Mullens how to throw the pitch," Mills says, mimicking the motion of the pitch. "Lob the ball and make sure it doesn't go into the dirt."
Mills changed from a Twins cap to a Pirates cap to step onto the field, reflecting his transition to Manatee County from the Minneapolis school district, where he served as chief executive officer.
Mills, an avid sports fan, said he and his wife, Jessica, who is visiting from the Chicago school district, have been frequenting Twins games for the past few years. However, he says he is ready to root for the Pirates.
Mayor Wayne Poston described Mills as personable and a good fit for Manatee County.
"He has a difficult job before him but we will work well together," Poston said.