Presidents have regularly thrown out the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day for Washington’s major league team going back more than a century, but the tradition will not resume this year. The Nationals invited President Trump to do the honors on Monday afternoon, when the team opens its 2017 season at Nationals Park against the Miami Marlins, but the White House declined the invitation on Tuesday, citing a scheduling conflict, according to Nationals spokeswoman Jen Giglio.
“The White House has announced that President Trump will not be joining us on Opening Day due to a scheduling conflict,” Giglio said on Tuesday. “As all of you know, inviting the president is a 100-plus year tradition here in Washington baseball. It began with the Senators back in 1910 and when baseball came back to Washington the Nats continued that tradition.”
Giglio said no decision has been made on who is throwing out the first pitch on Monday.
Earlier on Tuesday, Politico reported that President Trump was “in talks” to throw out the first pitch and that he could also spend an inning in the MASN broadcast booth. The Nationals, however, had declined to comment on the possibility. Trump has some experience: He threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Boston Red Sox hosted the New York Yankees at Fenway Park in 2006.
But Trump, who received 4.1 percent of the votes in Washington in November’s election, and whose national approval rating has dipped to 36 percent according to a Gallup daily tracking poll, would’ve probably been on the receiving end of some boos and jeers if he had appeared at Nationals Park.
Then again, it will be impossible to decipher which of the potential boos are in response to the job Trump is doing as president, and which are in response to his five-year-old thoughts on the Nationals’ decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg in 2012. Those weren’t positive. Strasburg is slated to throw the non-ceremonial first pitch on Monday as the Nationals’ starter.
William H. Taft, the 27th president, was the first to throw out a first pitch on Opening Day in 1910 for the Senators. Taft tossed it from the crowd, not the mound, at National Park and did it again in 1911. The event became standard as nine of the next 10 presidents followed Taft in throwing out the first pitch on their first opportunity in office until Washington was left without a major league team in 1972.
Harry Truman was the only one who didn’t throw out the first pitch in his first year in office, in 1945. Truman had become president eight days before the Senators played their home opener at Griffith Stadium following Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death. He did it each of the next seven years, even throwing one with each arm in 1950.
George W. Bush restarted the custom when baseball returned to Washington after a 33-year absence in 2005. Barack Obama waited until his second year in office to throw out the first pitch in 2010 – wearing a Nationals jacket and Chicago White Sox cap — on the 100th anniversary of Taft fathering the tradition. Obama turned down his invitation in 2009, but threw out the first pitch at the All-Star Game in St. Louis a few months later.
Overall, 13 presidents have thrown the first pitch on Opening Day for Washington’s baseball club 47 times.
Scott Allen contributed to this report.
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