The Washington Nationals announced on Monday that Dr. Anthony Fauci will throw out the first pitch on Thursday when they open their season against the New York Yankees.
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is the nation’s leading voice in the COVID-19 pandemic and has weighed in regularly on the return of sports amid the pandemic.
He’s also a big Nationals fan.
Nationals: Fauci a ‘true champion for our country’
“Dr. Fauci has been a true champion for our country during the COVID-19 pandemic and throughout his distinguished career, so it is only fitting that we honor him as we kick off the 2020 season and defend our World Series Championship title,” the Nationals' announcement reads.
Fauci has delivered multiple warnings about hastily restarting sports as the COVID-19 pandemic still ravages the United States. In June, he advised baseball against playing games into October with the potential of cold weather to exacerbate the effects of the coronavirus.
Later in June, Fauci clarified that he never suggested that baseball shouldn’t resume in response to criticism from Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
“I never said we can’t play a certain sport,” Fauci said during a Senate hearing. “What happens is the people in the sports industry … from the [MLB] Players Association, owners, people involved in the health of the players ask me opinions regarding certain facts about the spread of the virus. I give it, and then it gets interpreted that I’m saying you can’t play this sport or you can’t play that sport.
“The only thing I can do is to the best of my ability give you the facts and evidence associated with what I know about this outbreak.”
A thumbs up from Fauci for baseball?
His scheduled appearance on Thursday appears to be a tacit endorsement of the resumption of the MLB season.
Fauci’s ceremonial pitch will continue the celebration of the franchise’s first-ever World Series victory, clinched last fall against the Houston Astros.
No first pitch from Donald Trump
It will also take place amid an ongoing dispute in Washington, D.C., as President Donald Trump attempts to undercut Fauci’s COVID-19 advice in an effort to downplay the pandemic’s impact on the United States.
On Sunday, Trump called Fauci “a little bit of an alarmist,” days after Fauci categorized previous attacks from the White House on his expertise as “bizarre.” Trump’s attack arrived as the COVID-19 toll in the U.S. approached 3.8 million of the world’s 14.6 million confirmed cases with the death toll approaching 140,000.
That Fauci is invited to celebrate Washington’s first World Series victory instead of Trump will not go unnoticed. Presidents have regularly been invited to throw out the first pitch on MLB’s opening day.
The Nationals did invite Trump to throw out the opening day pitch in 2017, but he declined, citing scheduling conflicts. Nationals fans roundly booed Trump when he made an appearance during Game 5 of the World Series, welcoming him with chants of “Lock Him Up.”
They booed him again when a Trump campaign ad ran during the broadcast of Game 7.
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