Dr. Fauci’s pitch will be remembered


A few months ago, almost none of us knew his name. By Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci was famous enough to throw out the first pitch to kick off the Major League Baseball season for the defending World Series champions.

And was commemorated on a limit-edition baseball card for doing so.

Just because Fauci’s toss was wild outside, bringing to mind Bob Uecker’s memorable call of “Wild Thing” Charlie Sheen’s accuracy in the movie “Major League,” doesn’t make it any less memorable.

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Hey, the guy is 79 years old. Anyone who expected a fastball over the middle was dreaming. The best comment about the doctor’s moment in the spotlight was that he purposely threw the baseball outside to provide for social distancing from home plate; however, it was more than 6 feet wide.

We pretty much established Fauci will not be coming out of the bullpen for the Nationals this season, and his talents are best used in the guidance of developing a vaccine that might save us all from COVID-19.

Unlike many such individuals so honored when anointed to throw out a first pitch, Fauci was dressed for the occasion. He wore a Washington team cap and jersey, not to mention a protective face mask, practicing what he preaches to the nation. He is not only a fan of the game but a fan of the team that invited him to perform the chore.

It was a belated opening day for a sport scheduled to start in late March that had been interrupted for months by the coronavirus. Usually, the president of the United States takes a few minutes off from the press of business to make a few-minute cameo on a mound and welcome in the new season.

President Donald Trump has declined the honor during his term. Every other U.S. president since William Howard Taft has thrown out a first pitch at a ballgame. In the days of the old Washington Senators, they were handy. During the era when there was no Washington, D.C., baseball, presidents sidled over to Baltimore to throw out first pitches for the Orioles.

Not only is Washington baseball back, but the Nationals of 2019 won the first title for the nation’s capital since 1925.

Presidents seemed to have enjoyed the task as a noncontroversial, fan-voter friendly effort. Many presidents made short tosses from the stands to a home team player wearing a catcher’s mitt.

Herbert Hoover presided over the nation’s business during the Great Depression and Prohibition. Hoover did the game first-pitch job six times. It was suggested Hoover was booed as a reaction to Prohibition, but the Depression was a greater hardship.

Calvin Coolidge threw first pitches six times, too. Woodrow Wilson, a serious baseball fan, did so four times. Franklin D. Roosevelt owns the presidential record of 11 first pitches, including one World Series game and one All-Star game in addition to nine times on opening day.

Just last week, Trump said he was going to perform the task for a New York Yankee-Boston Red Sox game Aug. 15, and then he backtracked, saying he was going to be too busy.

Once, Trump joked the Secret Service would insist he don a bulletproof vest that would make him look too fat.

Over the years, some teams have gone overboard on first pitches, turning the first pitch into a reward for all 81 home games. A military hero may be invited to make a toss, a movie actor or actress and this is where the shine kind of wears off as special, sponsors get to select someone to trot out to the mound and heave the ball.

Anyone who loves baseball would love to throw out a first pitch, to have the moment on their résumé, but that doesn’t mean the 30,000 fans in the stands care one way or another if the marketing director of a local grocery store chain has his moment in the sun. You can’t expect spectators to cheer for people they never heard of or who are not renowned for doing something for the common good.

Fauci had much to live up to. Just last fall, for the Astros during the World Series, Olympic gold medal gymnast Simone Biles warmed up with an acrobatic flip while throwing the first pitch. If Fauci had seen that, he probably wouldn’t have even shown up.

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