The Washington Nationals on Monday announced that Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and one of the country’s leading voices during the novel coronavirus pandemic, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch when his two favorite teams, the Nationals and New York Yankees, open Major League Baseball’s shortened 60-game season Thursday at Nationals Park.

“Dr. Fauci has been a true champion for our country during the Covid-19 pandemic and throughout his distinguished career, so it is only fitting that we honor him as we kick off the 2020 season and defend our World Series Championship title,” the Nationals said in a statement.

Thursday’s game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.

Fauci, 79, looked up to Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio as a Yankees fan growing up in Brooklyn, but the Nationals have since become his No. 1 team.

“I’m not saying that because I’m talking to you,” Fauci said during an interview with Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman in April. “I love the Nats. I love everybody on the Nats. … I think the character of the Washington Nationals is such that this year is historic, really historic.”

Fauci joined the National Institutes of Health as a clinical associate in the Laboratory of Clinical Investigation in 1968 and has advised six presidents during his career as a civil servant. A member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, Fauci has recently expressed concern about the Trump administration’s plan to reopen schools and has called on state and local officials to mandate that people wear face masks in public. Fauci has been photographed wearing a mask with a Nationals-themed print.

During his interview with Fauci, Zimmerman, who announced last month that he was opting out of the 2020 season, promised to provide him with tickets to a game next season. While other fans won’t be allowed in the ballpark, Fauci won’t have to wait that long to see his beloved Nationals.

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