Pitcher-in-chief gets sage advice from a pro: “Follow through”
Barack Obama made his presidential pitching debut on Tuesday at the All-Star Game in St. Louis, but not before getting a little practice and a bit of advice.
“I’m telling him, ‘Follow through,’” said Willie Mays.
“He’s gonna do fine, I guarantee you. He’ll be fine. I just want to make sure he follows through,” said the Say Hey Kid.
Mays was an appropriate guest for Obama to take to the game. Ted Williams once said, “They invented the All-Star Game for Willie Mays.” He played in 24 of them.
The baseball legend, who said he was making his first flight on Air Force One, had kind words for the president.
“I dreamed about this day, 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 night in Chicago,” Mays said, referring to Election Day last November.
Mays, who faced prejudice and discrimination as one of the early black players in Major League Baseball, said he stayed up all night following the vote.
“I was so proud. So that tells me all the things I went through, it was for good things,” Mays said. “So I’m just proud of him, you know. He may be proud of something else. But I’m proud of him, what he stands for.”
Obama was apparently concerned enough about his pitching responsibilities to get in a little practice at the White House ahead of the game. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama had been throwing a ball around with an aide.
Asked about it after an Oval Office meeting on Tuesday morning with Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende of the Netherlands, the president said, “Well, I think it’s fair to say that I wanted to loosen up my arm a little bit.”
“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.
“There was no clock on it, I don’t know how fast it went — but if it exceeded 30 mph, I’d be surprised,” Obama added. “But it did clear the plate.”
The president, dressed in a Chicago White Sox jacket and greeted by cheers as well as a considerable number of boos, cleared the plate again on Tuesday night.
Or perhaps more accurately, he got close enough that Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, who did the catching honors, could lean out and grab it.
Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Obama throws opening pitch at All-Star Game; Obama and Mays descend steps of Air Force One)