Obama weighs in on big controversies – no DH, Duke and UConn

April 5, 2010

BASEBALL/

Perhaps emboldened by his successful push to overhaul the U.S. healthcare industry, President Barack Obama waded bravely into some of America’s other great debates, declaring himself an opponent of Major League Baseball’s use of the designated hitter, picking Duke University to win the men’s college basketball championship on Monday and the University of Connecticut to take the women’s college basketball crown on Tuesday.

“Even though I am an American league guy, I gotta admit that I am a baseball purist,” Obama said after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before the Washington Nationals’ baseball team’s first game of the season.

“I think no DH makes more sense. Have everybody out there playing, doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” he said, during an appearance with the Nationals’ television broadcasters.

Obama is a fan of his hometown Chicago’s White Sox, a team in Major League Baseball’s American League. In the American league, pitchers do not take turns at bat. Teams instead have a “designated hitter,” the DH, who does not take a turn in the field.  In the National League, pitchers take turns at bat and are virtually always by far the weakest batters on their teams.

The American League has been using the DH since 1973, and the issue has been the subject of countless barroom debates by fans.

Obama criticized his ceremonial pitch when the Nationals broadcasters showed a tape of it.  “This is heartbreaking right here. Released it a little high, a little early,” Obama jokingly lamented. “What breaks your heart on these is you’re down there practicing…  throwing strikes. You come out here, the thing slips out of your hands a little bit.  You know, it’s heartbreaking,” he said.

However, he said, all he really needed was more opportunities. “You know, if I had a whole inning, I’d clean up.”

Obama picked Duke University to win the NCAA championship on Monday night over Butler University, an underdog that made the final game of the 64-game tournament — known as March Madness – against the odds.

“I think Butler is just a great story, but you’ve got to figure that Duke is going to be able to pull it out. They’re a little bigger inside. It’s just going to be tough matchups for Butler, but they have played with unbelievable poise,” he said. But the president, who had originally predicted that the University of Kansas would win the championship, before they were upset earlier in the tournament, added this caveat: “That’s the best thing about March Madness these days. You never know who is going to win. ”

In the women’s game, Obama predicted that the University of Connecticut, which has gone 77 games without a defeat, would make it 78 in the final against Stanford University on Tuesday. “That’s probably the best team in sports right now,” he said of Connecticut’s Lady Huskies.

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Picture credit: A combination photo of U.S. President Barack Obama throwing out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the Major League Baseball’s opening game between the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies in Washington April 5, 2010. REUTERS/Jim Young

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