Baseball Judgments

Baseball Judgments |
Blue skies, green field, white house
The president and baseball


By Roger Weber


Each year, on baseball's opening day, an announcement is aired on every major league scoreboard – a speech given by George W. Bush about baseball being the spirit of America. Every president starting with Benjamin Harrison has attended a major league baseball game while in office, and Bush is no exception. But with Bush, baseball is something more than a publicity opportunity. It is a big part of his life, and along with his faith, at times has been his inspiration. Baseball has long been associated with patriotism, so it makes sense that the President would have close ties to the national pastime.


"You know, I love the game of baseball. I grew up loving baseball," he says. George W. Bush has been a baseball fan as long as he can remember. "I don't know how I fell in love with baseball. I just loved to play it. Everyone who loves baseball can remember the first time he saw the inside of a real major league park with real big-league players. It stays with you forever – the greenness of the grass, the sight of major leaguers in uniform, the sound of a big-league swing meeting a big-league pitch," Bush says.


Bush's youth was filled with baseball. As he puts it, "I never dreamed about being president, I wanted to be Willie Mays." Contrary to his dream, Bush got into politics, and became president, but he is the only president to have played little league baseball, and even now, he owns a collection of over 250 autographed baseballs.


Bush gets much inspiration from baseball, and he learned many lessons from it. "From baseball I developed a thick skin against criticism. I learned to overlook minor setbacks and focus on the long haul," Bush says. The President was never a great student, but he found guidance and inspiration through his faith in God, and through baseball. One of the men he emulated was famed catcher Yogi Berra.


"Yogi's been an inspiration to me. Not only because of his baseball skills, of course, but because of the mark he left on the English language." Of course, Bush isn't always perfect with his English, but some say that the only time he doesn't stutter, or confuse his words is when he is talking about baseball.


For him, baseball was not just a childhood dream that ended when he matured. Much of his life and the lives of others in his administration have been dotted with baseball experience. George W. was instrumental in the organization of the group which bought the Texas Rangers in 1989 and was the primary owner of the team from 1989 through 1998. During that time the ball club undergo a transformation from a small marked team in what was basically a minor league ballpark, into a dominant team which won the American League Western Division title in 1996 and 1998.


During Bush's days with the Rangers, he became good friends with current Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, who, at the time, was owner of the Milwaukee Brewers. The two met again in 2001, when they both threw out a first pitch at Milwaukee's new Miller Park.


Bush's vice president, Dick Cheney, also has baseball experience. In his younger days, he was a pitcher for an American Legion team in Casper, Wyoming. He, too, though, didn't end his baseball career when he was young. He recently worked for the Colorado Rockies, and was part of the rise of that organization.


President Bush includes baseball in his affairs as president, too. He even takes it into the Oval Office.


"You know, some people, like when they go to relax, will have the symphony on. I have a baseball game on. I like to do my – prepare for the next day, and my background noise is a baseball game."


In 2004, Bush invited the Baseball Hall of Fame inductees to the White House. He congratulated Paul Molitor, Ozzie Smith, and Dennis Eckersley on their successes, and said


"One of the great things about living here is that you don't have to sign up for a baseball fantasy camp to meet your heroes. It turns out, they come here," he said.


During Bush’s presidency, baseball returned to Washington D.C. with the Nationals. Like Bush, their performance has not always been popular with Washington fans. But their 2005 return to JFK Stadium came at a fitting time during the administration of a president whose roots tie so deeply to the game.


"It's such a wonderful sport,” he reminisces.  “There aren't any time limits, which means you can go and enjoy yourself. It's a great place to go and relax. It's a wonderful place to visit with somebody you love. It's an important part of our history."


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