WASHINGTON – To a mix of cheers and jeers, President George W. Bush opened baseball's newest stadium Sunday night with a ceremonial first pitch.
Bush waved twice quickly as he strode to the mound at Nationals Park. He wasted little time before throwing a pitch high and to the third-base side of the plate to Washington Nationals manager Manny Acta.
Bush acknowledged the crowd one more time by raising his hand as he left the field, again hearing applause and boos. A few minutes later, Acta's team took the field to play the Atlanta Braves to open the National League season.
It was the second time Bush has performed the honor in Washington and the sixth time overall in his presidency. He threw out the first pitch in 2005 — mostly to cheers — when baseball returned to the city after more than three decades.
Bush visited both teams in their clubhouses before the game and was escorted onto the field by Acta and Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.
It was not surprising that Bush's pitch was high — just as it was in 2005. People tend to have long memories when the ball is bounced to home plate, so Bush made time this week to hurl some practice pitches in his backyard — the South Lawn of the White House.
The tradition of a presidential first pitch goes back to 1910, when a formally dressed William Howard Taft threw the ball from his seat in the stands. Each occasion is different, but some years surely have more pizazz than others, and Bush is benefiting from a little good timing.
Washington is buzzing about baseball. There are opening days of a season every year, but opening days for a stadium are etched into a city's history.
The $611 million riverfront Nationals Park is earning raves as a plush, appealing attraction from fans who have seen it so far during trial runs; the players, meanwhile, cannot get over the immaculate conditions and amenities.