ST. LOUIS – President Bush is getting the hang of throwing out first pitches. He tossed one in from the mound at Busch Stadium (search) Monday, ceremonially opening the 2004 Major League Baseball season, and the catcher hardly had to move his mitt.
Bush said, in advance, "My wing isn't what it used to be."
But when he reared back and threw, the pitch was right in there. He also had said he planned to throw a "hopping fastball" to open the Brewers-Cardinals game, but it looked more like an off-speed pitch. The Cardinals' Mike Matheny caught it easily.
"It just goes to show you a guy can get lucky occasionally," Bush said afterward.
Three years ago, Bush's opening-day pitch at Milwaukee's Miller Park ended up in the dirt. Ever since, he has joked about being nervous when he approaches the mound. Bush is a former managing partner of the Texas Rangers (search).
No umpires called them, but Bush's first pitches at Game 3 of the 2001 World Series and at the 2001 College World Series were both deemed strikes.
Monday, Bush marched to the mound and with no windup threw the ball home. He wore a red Cardinals jacket. Fans chanted "U-S-A! U-S-A!"
The president chose the fiercely contested electoral state of Missouri to throw out this year's first pitch — actually on baseball's third opening day, after games last week in Japan and Sunday night in Baltimore.
In the stands, political opinion was mixed.
"Kerry is probably a little more attuned to what the less-than-elite of America need," said Jay Sarver, a financial business consultant from St. Louis, referring to Democratic Sen. John Kerry (search) of Massachusetts.
LuAnn Heuerman, 43, of Effingham, Ill., and her brother carried a large "Welcome to St. Louis President Bush" sign into the stadium. She said, "I think he's here because he enjoys baseball."
Some fans waited more than an hour to get through metal detectors — some didn't get inside in time to see Bush's toss.
The White House sent Vice President Dick Cheney (search) to throw out the first pitch Monday in Cincinnati, where the Reds were facing the Chicago Cubs.
"It turns out we don't need a radar gun on him either," Bush joked.