WASHINGTON – President Bush and two dozen kids from inner-city teams kicked off the fifth season of White House T-ball Sunday on the South Lawn (search).
The president performed the equivalent of throwing out the first pitch when he leaned over, placed a ball on the tee at home plate and shouted, "Play ball!"
The one-inning game set the Jackie Robinson South Ward Little League Black Yankees of Newark, N.J., against the South Side Little League Memphis Red Sox from Chicago. The teams are named after Negro League teams of the early 1900s and are part of the Little League Urban Initiative, an effort to get urban youth to take up baseball.
Bush launched White House T-ball (search) to promote interest in baseball and foster a spirit of teamwork and service. No one keeps score. Every player gets to bat and run the bases, and Bush presents each with a commemorative ball at the end.
Bush sat cheering and laughing at some of the comedic moments on the field, such as when the last batter ran directly from second base to home to avoid a fielder waiting to tag him out. But he didn't get a chance to watch much of the game as delighted parents and siblings in the stands lined up to get a picture with the president.
Bush sat with retired Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin (search), who is this year's White House T-Ball Commissioner, and Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden (search). Also in the stands were Chicago Mayor Richard Daley (search), White House Chief of Staff Andy Card and Sharon Robinson, daughter of legendary player Jackie Robinson.
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings was the first base coach and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson acted as third base coach.
Fred Hickman of ESPN was the play-by-play announcer and filled the time between batters by talking about their favorite things. One player, Hickman said, loves "SpongeBob SquarePants" and wants to be an FBI agent when he grows up.