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President Donald Trump will throw the first pitch for the New York Yankees next month, he announced on Thursday.
Speaking during a White House coronavirus news briefing, Trump praised Major League Baseball for its efforts to return to business as normal amid the coronavirus pandemic. He applauded the league’s adaptations to open its drastically delayed season, including by playing in empty stadiums. Trump said he was eager to throw the first pitch on Aug. 15.
“The key is to get back to normal,” the president said. “Nobody wants to see this. I think it is really good that baseball is opening. It looks like football is opening. It looks like sports are opening. It’s a tremendous thing psychologically for our country.”
Trump made the announcement only hours before Anthony Fauci, one of the administration’s most recognizable figures in its coronavirus response, threw the ceremonial first pitch to mark Opening Day for the Washington Nationals. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has consistently polled as one of the most trusted authorities on the pandemic on both sides of the aisle. The Nationals matched that enthusiasm in the team’s announcement to pick Fauci for Opening Day earlier this week.
“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 said in a statement on Monday.
Though Trump has often said that he has a strong relationship with Fauci, rumors of frayed ties have simmered beneath the surface. Trump has let out the stray passive-aggressive remark, and Fauci has been conspicuously absent at the daily White House coronavirus news briefings this week. The White House coronavirus response coordinator, Deborah Birx, was present at Thursday’s briefing, though she did not speak.
As Fauci was preparing to throw the first pitch across town, Trump gathered with former Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera, reporters and a group of Little Leaguers on the White House South Lawn. Trump played catch with Rivera in an event to mark Opening Day and told reporters that he would try to watch at least part of the Nationals game that night against the Yankees. He said, however, that he would be busy that evening with a host of international concerns and might miss it.
The Yankees are slated to play the Boston Red Sox on Aug. 15.