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Obama to skip opening day for Nationals

The president won't be throwing out the first pitch for the Washington Nationals' season opener, officials say.

March 31, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — Nationals Park will feature all the patriotic trappings one would expect on opening day for the national pastime in its capital city. Everything, that is, except for the president of the United States.

Indeed, both the White House and the Washington Nationals say President Obama is skipping the Major League Baseball season opener, despite the standing invitation for the first fan to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Uniformed personnel representing all five service branches will fill in for their commander in chief, part of a tribute by the team to the U.S. military and their families before the game Thursday against the Atlanta Braves.

Former President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch when baseball returned to Washington in 2005, and again when the team opened its new stadium in 2008. The former Texas Rangers owner attended his fair share of ballgames across the country during his two terms, including Game 3 of the 2001 World Series in New York weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Obama was overseas for opening day in his first year as president, so Vice President Joe Biden did the honors at Baltimore's Camden Yards in 2009. The president did pitch in at that year's All-Star Game in St. Louis after being handed the ball by Hall of Famer Stan Musial, who this year was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In 2010, Obama made his National Park debut, helping Major League Baseball mark the 100th anniversary of a U.S. president participating in opening day. The first was William Howard Taft, when the hometown team was the Senators.

Obama's delivery that day was not quite on target, though, and he also rankled some Nats fans by donning a Chicago White Sox cap after taking the field.

Obama has plenty keeping him away from the ballpark, of course. And he also appears to be smarting from criticism he faced for filling out his NCAA brackets on ESPN.

"A lot of folks focused on the fact that I filled out my bracket. Obviously I hadn't been spending that much time studying it since I don't have anybody in the Final Four," he told ABC's Diane Sawyer on Tuesday.

michael.memoli@latimes.com

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