WASHINGTON – President Bush joined disabled children at the annual T-ball game on the South Lawn of the White House Sunday afternoon, but the usually upbeat occasion was sobered by news of an Israeli airstrike that killed at least 34 children in Lebanon early Sunday.
"As we listen to our national anthem, it reminds us how blessed we are to live in a land where our boys and girls can grow up in a peaceful world," Bush said. "Today's actions in the Middle East remind us that friends and allies must work together for a sustainable peace particularly for the sake of children."
Then he led the Thurmont, Md., and Shady Spring, W.Va., teams — both part of the Little League's Challenger Division for disabled children — in the Little League Pledge. He placed a ball on the tee, and said, "Play Ball!"
The kids, many in wheelchairs or using walkers and accompanied by a buddy to assist, each had one turn at bat in the one-inning game.
An all-star lineup was on hand to coach: Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who played in four World Series and played on the All-Star team 24 times, acted as the game's commissioner. Two-time all-star Al Leiter coached first base and former Seattle Mariner Dan Wilson coached third.
"We have a little bit of a crowd at second base there," announcer Charlie Brotman, the former voice of the Washington Senators baseball team, said when several of the players bumped into each other while running the bases.
Mays, seated in the stands between the president and first lady Laura Bush, watched and clapped as Brian McDaniels, who played for the team from West Virginia, hit a home run over the fence constructed on the South Lawn specifically for the occasion.
Bush, once a part-owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, started the T-ball games in 2001 to promote interest in baseball and foster a spirit of teamwork and service. As always on the South Lawn, there were no outs and no strikes in Sunday's game.