News Item: Donald Trump has declined the Washington Nationals’ invitation to throw out the first pitch when the Nats begin the 2017 season. The club said that the White House blamed a “scheduling conflict.”
1. In the abstract, this is too bad—for baseball, for the Presidency, for the country. Traditions are healthy for cultures. Thirteen U.S. Presidents have thrown the season’s ceremonial ﬁrst pitch at either a Nationals or Senators catcher since 1910.: William H. Taft (1910-11), Woodrow Wilson (1912, ‘14), Warren Harding (1921-22), Calvin Coolidge (1924, ‘27-28), Herbert Hoover (1929-32), Franklin D. Roosevelt ( 1933, ‘35-41), Harry S. Truman (1946, ‘48-50, ‘52), Dwight Eisenhower (1953-58, ‘60), John F. Kennedy (1961-63), Lyndon Johnson (1964-65, ‘67), Richard Nixon (1969), George W. Bush (2008), and Barack Obama (2010).” The rest since 2010 found time to throw out at least one opening day pitch in other ball parks.
2. President Trump’s pass is wise, unfortunately. Herbert Hoover was roundly booed every time he threw out the first pitch, and it was a profound embarrassment. (He kept coming back, though. Bravo. Guts.) Hoover, however, didn’t have to deal with endless videos, internet cruelty, TV show comic mockery, and a political party dedicated to undermining him and respect for his office. Washington DC voted against Trump by a 96%-4% margin. People in D.C. want the President to throw out the first pitch purely so they can abuse him. He has a duty to protect the office and his dignity. The President was right to decline, even though it represents handing another victory to those who want to isolate him, “otherize him,” and undermine his leadership. Trump could be defiant, but it would spoil the tradition. Sometimes the assholes win. This is one of those times.
3. Trump, unlike the previous President, enjoys and played baseball, indeed well enough that he was scouted by the Red Sox and Phillies. There are many snarky blog and web articles up today suggesting that Trump wouldn’t be able to throw a pitch without embarrassing himself, and that’s why he declined. One article joked that he couldn’t hold a ball because of his “tiny hands.” Funny. It is likely that if the toxic, nation-rending hyper-partisanship and hate currently infecting the U.S. wasn’t being intentionally ramped up by “the resistance,” making the prospect of a traditional first pitch by this President a looming public relations disaster and an excuse for more hatred and abuse, he would have acquitted himself well.
4. Baseball is a beautiful game that transcends politics and time. It allows fans to bask in a pastoral alternate universe with a long and fascinating history. The game is linked to fathers and kids, hot dogs, cow pastures, golden summer days and excited voices over the radio; the National Anthem, memories, and the United States of America. That’s where the President fit in, and before Democrats decided to smear the office because they didn’t like the office-holder, it was a good and mutually beneficial match. Now, thanks to their relentless efforts and the journalists and pundits assisting them, the President of the United States cannot even throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the baseball season without subjecting himself, and his office, and baseball, to vicious partisan ugliness.
5. An important part of the U.S. President’s role has always been purely symbolic and ceremonial. Democrats have succeeded in making fulfillment of that part of his job impossible for President Trump.
Shame on them.