If it were the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded in a one-run game, George W. Bush is the 21st century president most managers would bring out of the bullpen. Working from the stretch like an experienced reliever, Bush confidently threw a high outside fast ball with his 2008 opening-day pitch as the 43rd president celebrated the first game at the new ballpark for the Washington Nationals.
But in scouting baseball context matters as much as raw ability.
Barack Obama – even though he added an artful leg kick – had control problems at Tuesday night's All-Star game as his first-ball floater was caught just before it landed in the dirt. Obama may be a bit raw on the mound (his boyhood game was hoops not baseball) but he does have an asset that scouts covet. The 44th president is a southpaw with the potential to develop into the kind of one-out guy whom managers can bring in to face a left-handed slugger in the eighth inning. Obama is also 15 years younger than Bush and has three and a half years before his current contract is up for renewal.
Also – and you are not likely to see this detail in the box scores – presidents who take the mound may be handicapped by their amateur-hour uniforms, which require the approval of the Secret Service rather than Major League Baseball. In the political classic What It Takes, Richard Ben Cramer described Vice President George H.W. Bush's agonies at Houston's Astrodome as he threw out the first ball at the 1986 National League Championship Series. Because of a cumbersome bullet-proof vest, the senior Bush (a left-handed first baseman at Yale) endured the indignity of seeing his only pitch bounce on the way to home plate. As Cramer writes, "George Bush twists his face into a mush of chagrin, hunches his shoulder like a boy who just dropped the cookie jar, and for one generous freeze-frame moment, buries his head in both hands."
At the All Star Game, Obama did not endure anything like this kind of Bill Buckner-esque humiliation. Sure, it is a safe bet that the president probably wishes he had a bit more giddy yap on his fast ball Tuesday night. But Obama can take comfort in the immortal words of long-suffering Brooklyn Dodger fans: "Wait until next year."
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