Dr. Anthony Fauci jokes about wild first pitch, assesses returns of MLB, NFL, NCAA

Dr. Anthony Fauci is ready to join the jokes on his behalf after his opening night first pitch went quite a bit outside.

Fauci opened a live conversation with Washington Post reporter Robert Costa on Friday by discussing his pitch and the state of sports, specifically baseball and football, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Fauci joins in joking about his first pitch

Fauci, the infectious disease expert who has led the United State’s response to the coronavirus, took the mound in a No. 19 Washington Nationals jersey for the opening game against the New York Yankees.

His pitch wasn’t even close. And the jokes wrote themselves.

Fauci, an avid Nationals fan, told the Washington Post:

“It went in the wrong direction. I joked around after and said I used to be a shortstop when I played ball as a young boy and I thought I was supposed to throw to first base.”

Fauci: MLB protocols make it safe for return

Dr. Anthony Fauci in a Washington Nationals jersey, mask and hat with a baseball glove raising his hands.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, threw wide on his first pitch at the MLB opener. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Costa asked Fauci if he thought it was too soon for baseball to return to play after its spring opening day was postponed. Fauci said the protocols the league was taking made it safe.

“When we were discussing how to open up baseball again I was one of I’m sure many people that they consulted with. And one of the things that we said was important is paramount safety for the players and their families, safety for the personnel and safety for anyone who might be a spectator. And what they’ve done, as we did last night, there were no spectators in the stands and the players had followed strict protocol.

“I think it can be done. It’s a little bit different because there are no spectators in the stands, but I think the United States, which is really craving for some sort of relief from the kinds of restrictions we’ve been under, would love to see baseball in any form even if just on television.”

MLB’s testing protocols were tested hours before first pitch in Washington when the team’s young star, Juan Soto, tested positive for COVID-19. Tests are administered every other day to players, who are not playing in a bubble league like their counterparts in the NBA, WNBA, MLS and NWSL.

Last month, Fauci complimented the NBA for its “very creative” plan to complete its season even as COVID-19 cases rise in Orlando, Florida, where games are taking place. The league announced zero positive COVID-19 cases in the bubble earlier this week. The WNBA and NWSL have also had no cases in their bubbles.

What about bringing football back?

Fauci said he didn’t want to come across as encouraging or discouraging the return of football at either the college and professional level. When asked about it, he laid out the difficulties facing the NCAA schools and the NFL.

Via the Post:

“It’s a more complicated issue there. I’ve obviously had the opportunity to just give some fundamental tenants of public health to the people associated with those organizations who’ve asked me for advice. It’s very difficult to say you’ve got to do some real careful type of protocols if you want to get football, which is such an inherently contact sport being at the college or professional level. But I think you’d have to take a look at how they are trying to do it, what the protocols are. I certainly cannot be the judge of that. I can only talk to people about what are some of the risks are and what some of the safety procedures must be.

“I don’t want to come across as encouraging or discouraging. I’m just trying to be realistic about what some of the challenges are going to be. I think if you do a good enough protocol you probably could do it, but you’ve got to make sure it’s well thought out and the safety of the players and everyone is paramount in your consideration.”

NFL, college football make plans for season

NFL rookies arrived at training camp at the beginning of the week even though the details of a season are still being discussed. The NFL agreed to meet the NFL Players Association demands of cutting the entire preseason schedule and increasing coronavirus testing protocols.

The season would also not take place in a bubble and some teams are planning to allow fans into the stadiums. The league is requiring fans to wear a mask.

College football has the added difficulty of no central leadership, more than 100 teams and players who are on campus with thousands of other students who may not be social distancing.

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