The most important first pitch in history

Whether you liked George W. Bush or not, you must admit he had style

FLICKR | PHOTO COURTESY
President Bush’s pitch symbolized that even in America’s darkest hour, it can persevere.

It was October 30, 2001. It had been 49 days since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The New York Yankees were set to host the Arizona Diamondbacks in game three of the World Series.

The Yanks needed a win against the Diamondbacks to have any shot at winning the title. A 3-0 series deficit would have been nearly insurmountable. This was the most important game of the season, so the talk of New York should have been about baseball. It wasn’t, and all the emotional wounds were still very fresh.

Throwing out the first pitch that night would be president George W. Bush. The autumn night was cool but not cold, perfect baseball weather. Bush was wearing a New York Fire Department jacket to honor the first responders at Ground Zero.

Before he entered the field, the president chatted with a few players and coaches. One of them was Derek Jeter.

“Don’t bounce it, they’ll boo you,” Bush recalls the Yankee captain telling him. As the president was ready to step onto the diamond, the voice of legendary announcer Bob Sheppard slipped through the old Yankee Stadium speakers, “Please turn your attention to the mound and welcome, the President of the United States.”

President Bush stepped onto the field to thousands of screaming fans. The president looked like a man who wanted to give people something to cheer about. As he walked towards the mound, he soaked in the applause, waving to the crowd with his right hand, holding a baseball with his left. For those brief moments, the world outside Yankee Stadium melted away. All that was left was a man, a baseball, and a message to send.

“The adrenaline was coursing through my veins, and the ball felt like a shot put. And Todd Greene, the catcher , looked really small. Sixty feet and six inches seemed like a half-mile. It was the most nervous I had ever been. It was the most nervous moment of my entire presidency it turns out.”

The president took the mound, gave the crowd a thumbs up, took a deep breath, and let her fly. The baseball split the middle of the plate, Greene not needing to move his glove. Yankee Stadium was going wild. The crowd’s raucous reaction proved the importance of he knee-high strike .

Taking everything into account, it would have been hard to blame the commander-in-chief if he had gone out and bounced the ball to home-plate. Yet it mattered that the nation’s leader could go out and fire a strike with the eyes of the world on him. The pitch represented that the country would not back down. It showed that somehow, life would indeed go on. It gave people, for a moment, hope.

President Bush’s pitch symbolized that even in America’s darkest hour, it can persevere. Regardless of what happens, America can get up, look adversity in the eye, and stand its ground.

Yes, at its core, it was just another baseball game. But at the same time, it was more than that. Baseball is one of the things that helped build America. Through all the wars, tragedies, and turning points, baseball has always been something for people to turn too, something for people to escape too. Maybe just another baseball game is what everyone needed.

Bush exited the mound, shook a couple hands, and posed for a picture.

He then disappeared into the dugout, “USA” chants ringing throughout the ballpark.

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