The president appeared unmoved, waving to fans and soon moving to chat with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in his luxury box along the third base line.
Trump, who has virtually never been seen in Washington outside the White House, his own hotel and a handful of other highly controlled settings, came with the first lady, a coterie of Republican members of Congress and top aides, who could be seen smiling, chatting and posing for selfies throughout the game. He entered without fanfare about eight minutes before first pitch, only spotted by a few in the crowd.
The trip to the ballpark was the first time Trump attended a Washington sporting event since becoming president. He has not eaten at a Washington restaurant beyond those in his hotel and has skipped traditional social events such as the Kennedy Center Honors and White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.
The Nationals had sought to keep politics out of their first trip to the World Series and did not invite Trump, who decided to come and then arranged the logistics with Major League Baseball, officials said.
After his brief introduction, Trump was largely a non-presence in the ballpark .
Presidents often throw out the ceremonial first pitch when they attend a baseball game, but that honor Sunday instead went to chef and humanitarian José Andrés, who has faced off with Trump in court over scuttled plans to build a restaurant in the Trump International Hotel and has criticized many of Trump’s policies. Andrés received a loud ovation when he appeared on the field before the game.
The presidential limo pulled up into a tunnel below home plate, and the president and first lady emerged shortly after 8 p.m., whisked into an elevator by Secret Service and up to the luxury box. Trump was accompanied by the first lady, daughter Ivanka Trump and an all-Republican cohort, including Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and David Perdue (Ga.); Texas Reps. Mac Thornberry, Kevin Brady, Kay Granger and John Ratcliffe; and Reps. McCarthy, Steve Scalise (La.), Mark Meadows (N.C.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Matt Gaetz (Fla.).
Trump was expected to meet with a group of wounded veterans during the game, a White House aide said.
During the fifth inning, two men held up signs that read “Veterans for Impeachment” at their seats directly behind home plate. The men, Alan Pitts and Naveed Shah, said they are Iraq veterans who are with Common Defense, an organization for veterans who are against the Trump administration.
“Our oath didn’t end when we left active duty,” Pitts said. “We still defend it today, and Congress needs to do the same. They need to step up and hold the president accountable for his illegal and unconstitutional acts.”
Because signs of a certain size are permitted in the ballpark, “We’re not breaking any rules that we’re aware of. We would hope that they’re not kicked out for that,” said Alex McCoy, a Marine Corps veteran with the group. “We’re just trying to assert our First Amendment rights.” Other veterans from Common Defense planned to be in attendance, too, but not in the visible section behind home plate — “We could only afford the two tickets” there, McCoy said. The group declined to say how much it paid for the seats, but World Series tickets in prime sections cost thousands of dollars.
After Pitts and Shah showed their signs, Pitts said security told them to take them down, and fans around them reacted angrily, including a man in a “Make America Great Again” hat who told the pair they would “have a big problem” if they got close to him and his friends. They were able to remain at the game.
The Nationals and Major League Baseball leadership were reluctant to discuss the president’s visit. Chased down a hallway in the bowels of the ballpark, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred declined to comment on his golf outing with Trump on Saturday at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va. “I’m not talking,” he said before boarding a freight elevator where Secret Service dogs were sniffing nearby.
Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo, wearing a blue-and-white-striped shirt on the field before the game, was also not interested in talking about Trump.
“I don’t know where he’s sitting,” Rizzo said with a smile before walking into the Nationals’ dugout a minute later.
Asked twice whether Trump was invited by the team to attend, he declined to say. “I’ve got to worry about going 1-0 on the field,” he said. “That’s what I’ve got to worry about.”
Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg said he was “excited” for Trump to come but that it had created an unusual atmosphere in the clubhouse.
“Usually the dogs that are sniffing in our clubhouse are these nice Labs that are super friendly. And today there was a German shepherd that I didn’t really feel comfortable petting,” he said.
Andrés, on the other hand, was a welcome presence at the game.
As the Astros took batting practice, singer Pedro Capó, whose song “Calma” has become a Nationals anthem of sorts, hung out behind home plate. He had an Astros glove in his hand and a red Nationals towel in his back left pocket.
“As a Puerto Rican, I’m always going to be grateful to José Andrés,” said Capó, who was thrilled that the chef who fed his island during Hurricane Maria would be there to throw out the first pitch. “And now he’s doing it again in the Bahamas. That speaks of the class act he is.”
As for Trump’s appearance, Capó shrugged. “Hey, it’s the World Series, you know? You got to come. That’s about it.”
Trump left in the eighth inning.