A letter from Beta Yoder:
I went to THE Ohio State University recently to watch classic movies from the Baseball Hall of Fame. One of the videos was about Washington baseball patriarch Clark Griffith and his memories of Presidents that have thrown out the first pitch at Washington's home opener. To me, this is one of baseball's great traditions. Even though the Nats have stunk over the years, we can usually count on the President supporting the club, the city, and the game of baseball. I write this as an Obama voter, so this isn't political at all. But, I was disappointed that President Obama snubbed the Nats' invitation to throw out the first pitch in Washington.
After watching some of the old films it's clear that baseball has the richest tradition and history of American sports. I'm not a "baseball guy" but any sports fan has to have some appreciation for the history of the game. Part of this tradition is the President throwing out the first pitch in Washington. It puts baseball in its proper place as our national pastime, and it's a cool ritual. So, why did the Pres ignore a near century old tradition? We all know he's an avid sports fan. If he has the time to talk hoops with Andy Katz and fill out a bracket on ESPN, surely he has time to go to the ballpark. He even reportedly wanted to go to Chicago to throw out the first pitch for the ChiSox. If the President ignores the Nats, why should anyone else pay attention? Let's face the facts; it would have been THE highlight of the Nats' season to have President Obama in the house yesterday.
It adds insult to injury that VP Biden threw out the first pitch in Baltimore on Opening Day. Not only does the White House ignore Washington, but they send the #2 guy to Baltimore. The team sits winless, the Acta Watch has begun, Stan Kasten is clueless, and now no love from the White House? The military reps were certainly worthy of doing the honors, but don't the suffering Nats fans deserve a little support from the First Fan?
While it was disappointing not to see Obama throw out the first pitch as he is the nations first African American president and a symbol of hope for the country, in the overall scheme of Washington Baseball it wasn't that big of a deal.
From the fan-at-the-game's perspective when the president throws out the first pitch it is really more of a hassle than anything else. I remember going to the very first Nationals game at RFK only to miss the entire first inning because the gates closed the minute George W. Bush showed up to the stadium. I was at the game over an hour early.
Logistics aside, while the President throwing out the first pitch is a great national symbol for the beginning of baseball, but at least for this Nats fan it really doesn't do much in terms of marking the beginning of my teams year.
For Washingtonians the President isn't really that big a part of the local community. He is the national figurehead who we in some cases love, some cases hate, but in all cases we think of as a neighbor with a gigantic front yard/secure fence/ and closed doors. Yes, it is an honor to have the president throw out the first pitch, but there are so many better options of people who better connect with the Washington community.
The first pitch isn't a chance to compete with other cities on who can provide the biggest celebrity. It is a chance for the city as a whole to recognize and honor someone who has served us in a way that deserves our cherishing respect.
A list of people who I would rather see throw out the first pitch than the president:
Mike Wilbon AND Tony Kornheiser
The Family of Shirley Povich (minus Maury)
John Thompson Sr.
Cal Ripken Jr. (No Nationals before his retirement, no problem)
These are all local figures that people can rally around. Presidents are traditionally unpopular, why not give the fans a chance to honor someone they all respect and love.
Besides, have you seen his form?