Before Obama's First Pitch, a Little Wind Up
Updated 7:05 p.m.
By Michael D. Shear
President Obama has been making plenty of pitches to the American people and the Congress recently. But none may be as important as the one he makes tonight from the mound at the All-Star Game.
It will be Obama's first opening pitch as president and the kind of moment that television loves, if only for the possibility of a screw-up -- a wimpy throw or a wild pitch that goes awry. (Or, as happened to Obama during the campaign, a gutter ball.)
Asked about the pitch, Obama made it clear he's been thinking about it.
"Well, I think it's fair to say that I wanted to loosen up my arm a little bit," he told reporters after an Oval Office meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenede.
Obama's last pitch was during the American League Championship series in 2005, when he tossed the first ball to his beloved Chicago White Sox.
"You know, my general strategy, the last time I threw a pitch was at the American League Championship Series and I just wanted to keep it high," he said. "Now, there was no clock on it, I don't know how fast it went -- but if it exceeded 30 miles per hour, I'd be surprised.
But it did clear the plate."
The White Sox won that game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 3-2, and then went on to win every game for the rest of the season, winning the ALCS and the World Series. For weeks after that pitch, Obama liked to chide reporters about how his team didn't lose a game after he took the mound.
Before that, Obama's only pitching experience was throwing out the first pitch during a Kane County Cougars' game, according to White House officials.
Spokesman Tommy Vietor said the president plans to warm up before the pitch with St. Louis Cardinal slugger Albert Pujols, known to fans as Phat Albert or El Hombre.
On the Air Force One flight to the Midwest, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs added that the president has been practicing his pitch with aide Reggie Love, according to a pool report. Former campaign manager David Plouffe came along on the trip as "the representative of the Philadelphia Phillies today" and was "excited to go to the game," he said.
Obama also plans to spend time in the broadcast booth, helping Fox TV announcers call the game.
Arriving in St. Louis, Obama descended the stairs of Air Force One with baseball legend Willie Mays by his side. It was Mays's first trip aboard the presidential plane, he told reporters as he spoke emotionally about Obama's election.
"I reminded him that I dreamed about this day," Mays said of his conversation with the president. "Not being on Air Force One, but dreamed about someone in my race being president. Not knowing that anyone would be. But I reminded him that I cried for most of the
[election] night in Chicago."
Mays, who met up with Obama in Detroit, told reporters that he gave Obama just one tip for his first pitch: "Follow through."
"I'm just proud of him, you know," Mays said as he signed autographs for reporters and members of Obama's traveling staff. "He may be proud of something else. But I'm proud of him, what he stands for."
Obama was wearing jeans, sneakers and white shirt and black jacket as he arrived in St. Louis. Press secretary Robert Gibbs said the president would don a White Sox cap and jacket when he steps to the pitcher's mound.
Staff writer Paul Kane contributed to this report.
Posted at 2:44 PM ET on Jul 14, 2009
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