President Obama is a huge basketball fan who gets in a pick-up game whenever he can. But for the next few weeks, he may want to dust off an old baseball glove and start working on his wind-up out on the South Lawn.
The Washington Times reported this weekend that President Obama will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Nationals Stadium on April 13, according to a club source.
The White House will not confirm the appearance. “We have not yet finalized our schedule for the second week of April,” a White House official said.
The Times reported that the Nationals invited the president to throw out the first pitch earlier this spring and he has a standing invitation to do so as long as there is a team in town.
Obama, a Chicago White Sox fan, is in high demand at stadiums this spring. The president was invited by the White Sox to throw out the first pitch before their season opener on April 6 on the South Side. Obama is familiar with the mound at U.S. Cellular field –- he threw out the first pitch during the 2005 playoffs there. He has also reportedly been invited by the Cincinnati Reds to throw out the first pitch at Major League Baseball’s Civil Rights Game on June 20.
Obama’s appearance at Nationals Stadium should give the hometown fans something to cheer about early that day, before the Nats take the field against World Champion Philadelphia Phillies and in front of about 25,000 rabid Philadelphia fans who will travel down I-95 with them.
The Nationals are coming off of a rough 2008, when the team won 59 games and lost 102, and the off-season has not been much kinder, with most notably the resignation of their general manager last week.
This is the Nationals’ fifth season in Washington and if Obama does make an appearance on the mound on Opening Day, it would mark the third time a president has thrown out the first pitch. Former President Bush did the honors in 2005 and 2008.
The tradition of a president throwing out the first pitch goes back to 1910 when President William Taft took the mound for the Washington Senator’s home opener against the Philadelphia Athletics.
Obama’s predecessor may have set the high mark for a perfect ceremonial first pitch. On Oct. 30, 2001, with New York and the nation still reeling from the Sept. 11 attacks, former President Bush took the mound before Game 3 of the World Series between the Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks. Pitching from the rubber, after a conversation with Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter, Bush threw a strike just off the center of the plate and the crowd erupted into chants of “USA, USA!”
Bush, a huge baseball fan and former owner of the Texas Rangers, threw out the first pitch at several stadiums over eight years, including the ceremonial first pitch at the first baseball game in Washington after a 34-year drought.
When he took the mound that year, he was greeted with a smattering of boos from the DC fans. The following year, Vice President Cheney threw out the first pitch at the Nationals’ home opener and there was no mistaking the rain shower of boos from the crowd.
Obama may walk out to the mound to a warmer reception. He won the District of Columbia with 93 percent of the vote against Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, last November.
-- Karen Travers and Sunlen Miller