The visit was Trump’s idea, according to multiple people familiar with the situation. His staff connected with Major League Baseball, which then coordinated with the Nationals. Trump is expected to sit with MLB officials.
Presidential visits are part of D.C. baseball tradition: Every president who has been in office while a major league team has played in Washington has not only attended a game but also thrown out a ceremonial first pitch during his visit. Trump will attend his first Nationals game as president Sunday, but he will not throw out the first pitch.
Restaurateur and humanitarian José Andrés, who has been openly critical of many Trump policies, will instead throw out the first pitch. The two also have a legal history: Trump sued Andrés for breach of contract in 2015 after Andrés, upset by Trump’s tirades against Mexican immigrants during his campaign, pulled out of a deal to open a restaurant in Trump’s D.C. hotel. Andrés later countersued him, and the two sides settled two years later. When Trump disinvited the Philadelphia Eagles from their traditional post-Super Bowl visit in 2018, Andrés invited them to his restaurant instead.
In planning first pitches, MLB and teams typically work together. The team will submit its list of choices, and MLB either okays them or nixes those suggestions and provides alternatives. In the case of a presidential visit, MLB would have given preference to Trump throwing out a first pitch had he wanted to do so. On Thursday, Trump jokingly told reporters that throwing out a first pitch would be undesirable because he’d have to wear protective “armor” and it would make him look “heavy.”
On Friday afternoon, Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner told The Washington Post that all three first pitches — 2005 National Chad Cordero, a member of the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy and Andrés — had been the Nationals’ choices.
“The first pitches are our call, and we felt there are many other candidates that should be considered before [Trump],” Lerner said. “. . . We just wanted to have the right people. I think we got a nice mix of people.”
The league confirmed Saturday that all conversations with Trump about throwing out a first pitch had been directly with MLB on Friday. Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters that MLB asked the President whether he wanted to throw out the first pitch, but he declined. Trump does not plan to arrive in time to see that first pitch; he is planning to arrive after the game begins. Manfred said Trump made that decision to alleviate the crush of fans entering the ballpark with higher security constraints.
“His view was that to make the fan experience as positive as possible, he would arrive at Game 5 sometime after the game began so it wouldn’t interfere with fans getting into the stadium,” Manfred told reporters. “Quite frankly, we were very grateful for that. We thought it was a great decision on the president’s part.”
Manfred has been in touch with Trump directly. On Saturday afternoon, he played golf with Trump and Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) at Trump National Golf Club, the White House confirmed. The commissioner and the president have interacted before. In January 2017, shortly before Trump’s inauguration, Manfred met with Trump at Trump Tower in New York. Manfred told Fox Business at the time that it was a “really nice meeting” at which Trump explained his longtime baseball fandom. They will both be in attendance Sunday, among many dignitaries reportedly planning to attend.
The Nationals are accustomed to high-profile visitors. They regularly host Supreme Court justices, members of Congress and other dignitaries with little fuss. But a visit from the president requires far more planning, so the past few days have included coordination among the Nationals, league officials and the White House advance staff to plan for the president’s visit. They have already announced that they will open the gates at 4 p.m., an hour earlier than usual, for a first pitch scheduled for a little after 8.
Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.