Dr. Anthony Fauci will throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day on Thursday, the Washington Nationals announced.
“Dr. Fauci has been a true champion for our country during the Covid-19 pandemic and throughout his distinguished career,” reads the official statement.
The nation’s top infectious disease expert is a big baseball fan and an even bigger Nats fan, flaunting his love for the team around town and on Capitol Hill.
When he walks onto the field Thursday, he won’t see any crowds, since the team will be playing to empty stands due to the pandemic.
But as TV viewers tune in at home, the pitch will put Fauci front and center in Washington at a time when President Donald Trump has seemed to want him anyplace else. Efforts on the part of the White House to call his public health expertise into question are “bizarre,” Fauci told The Atlantic last week.
The president himself has not thrown out a first pitch while in office, though many of his predecessors did.
In recent weeks, Fauci has used baseball as an icebreaker. After arriving at a House hearing this summer wearing a simple black face covering, he pulled a costume change in the middle, strapping on a bold red face mask featuring the Nationals logo.
“There’s quite an uproar on social media about the fact that Dr. Fauci has changed face masks and the implications thereof. Do you have any comment?” asked House Energy and Commerce ranking member Greg Walden on June 23.
It wasn’t exactly a hardball question. Fauci grinned as he pulled down the mask to answer. “I am an avid Washington Nationals Fan, so I thought I would break this up by putting on my Washington Nationals face mask,” he said.
How and when to resume professional sports as the coronavirus crisis drags on has been a national flashpoint. Fauci has fielded many questions on the topic in media interviews and public appearances, including an especially friendly one back in April with Nats player Ryan Zimmerman (who’s since opted out of the 2020 season).
The first baseman jokingly offered up free tickets, and the super-fan revealed that Teddy Roosevelt is his favorite among the “racing presidents” that take the field at every home game.
Watching baseball this summer could be good for the “country’s mental health,” the disease expert also said at the time.
The Brooklyn native will kick off the Nationals’ 2020 season against the New York Yankees.