Surprise, kiddos, it’s former president Barack Obama!

The onetime commander in chief shocked local students attending after-school programs at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy in Southeast D.C. on Wednesday when he dropped by for a visit, during which he played softball (he hit a double on the first pitch, despite claiming his game was “raggedy”), tossed a football around and shared some encouraging words.

“If you work hard and listen to your coaches . . . I’m going be on the lookout for you,” Obama said. “You’re going to do something important. You’re going to make a real difference, and we’re going to be proud of you.”

The facility, which is affiliated with the city’s baseball team, provides academic support and baseball and softball for D.C. kids. Obama’s post-White House schedule has been a busy one — in addition to writing his memoir (and so far staying mostly out of the 2020 primary), he’s visited with D.C. kids at McKinley Technology High School and the Jelleff Boys & Girls Club.

Tal Alter, the academy’s executive director, said the former president’s visit was a “validation” of the kids’ efforts. “There was a feeling of excitement and happiness to be seen and recognized by President Obama, and to feel like he’s acknowledging the hard work they’ve put in on and off the field,” he said.

The highlight-reel moment? For Alter, it was when the former president threw a pass for a touchdown during a game of touch football, and the kids went wild — not for Obama, but for their fellow student who caught it. “That for me is an indication that the staff is doing something right, that they celebrated the young man and not the president,” he said.

And don’t say the guy can’t multitask: The visit on Wednesday doubled as an errand run, too, when Obama picked up a bag of groceries at the academy’s on-site farmers market.


Former U.S. President Barack Obama meets with students during his visit to the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy on May 22, 2019, in Washington, D.C. (Paul Kim for the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy)

Obama visits the farmers market at the academy. (Paul Kim/Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy)

Obama takes a picture with students at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy. (Paul Kim/Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy)

Obama hugs a Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy coach during his visit on May 22. (Paul Kim/Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy)

Obama speaks to the students and coaches. (Paul Kim/Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy)