BALTIMORE, APRIL 6 -- Well, he's not quite "The Comeback Kid."

America's First Left-Hander, President Bush, sent his pitch into the dirt, low and outside to his imagined left-handed hitter in his debut on the mound at Oriole Park at Camden Yards today, prompting him to slap his hands to his forehead in mock chagrin.

It was billed at the first pitch at the new park, but it was really the second. Bush, currently seeking a four-year contract renewal, followed 15-year-old grandson George P. Bush to the mound. The younger Bush, a right-hander, sent a strike to Baltimore Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles.

Bush, working on one year's rest, was hoping to rebound from his last outing when he bounced a curveball far in front of home plate last spring in Opening Day ceremonies for the Texas Rangers, owned in part by his eldest son, George W. Bush. "It broke too early -- like right after it left my hand," he recalled last week.

That time, he pretended to throw his glove to the ground in disgust, only to be accused later by two of his granddaughters of being "a bad sport."

Bush, dressed in gray slacks and a navy-blue crewneck sweater over a blue shirt, came out to cheers and a smattering of boos today. He went against his first choice for today's pitch. "I'm trying to decide what to go with," Bush told reporters last week. "Maybe the heat . . . is the thing to do."

But, arriving back at the White House this afternoon, Bush acknowledged he had shaken the fast ball off: "I went with the curveball. . . . It broke a little too soon."

He rejected the advice he once got from Nolan Ryan of the Rangers. "Nolan says throw it high because amateurs get out there, no matter how good they are, and throw it into the dirt," Bush said during his rookie year as president. "You get more an an 'ooh' if you heave it over the {catcher's} head instead of going with the fast-breaking deuce into the dirt."

Bush took in the game -- or at least eight innings' worth -- in owner Eli Jacobs' box. He also visited the Orioles' radio and television broadcasters for brief chats and a little play-by-play. And if the president wasn't so sure of the name of the Cleveland Indians shortstop (Mark Lewis) or first baseman (Paul Sorrento), he did know that the grounder Bill Ripken hit was out, 6 to 3.

On the air, Bush said of his pitch, "I thought I was against a great left-handed hitter, so I wanted to keep it away."

The park, he said, "is a magnificent tribute to Baltimore."

Bush, who played in the first College World Series ever played, has attended more than a dozen games as president, including visits to the minor league Hagerstown Suns and the Frederick Keys. Last year, he took Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams to the All-Star Game in Toronto.

He has also used baseball as a diplomatic tool, taking Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and even Queen Elizabeth II to see the Orioles.

Bush claims to have a Walter Mitty joy in throwing out the first pitch on opening days. He's done it each year he's been president: twice now for the Orioles, once for the Toronto Blue Jays and once for the Rangers. And none of this throwing from the stands for him. He does it from the mound -- never in front of it -- like a real big-leaguer.

The president loves the game as only one who played it seriously can. Bush once reached into a drawer in the Oval Office and showed a reporter the McQuinn Trapper first baseman's mitt he used at Yale University.

Over three years, he played every game for the Elis at that position and was team captain as a senior. He fielded .990 on 190 chances and hit .264 his last year.