While Dr. Anthony Fauci was getting ready to throw out the first pitch of the 2020 Major League Baseball season, Mariano Rivera was sitting in the staff section at a White House news conference on COVID-19.
The Hall of Fame closer for the New York Yankees was looking on as President Donald Trump announced the cancellation of Republican National Convention festivities that were planned for Jacksonville, Florida.
The ceremonial first pitch from Fauci was wild outside, but that isn’t keeping baseball players past and present from trying to heed the advice of the popular director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“When Dr. Fauci says wear a mask and stay six feet away, I listen,” former MLB star Alex Rodriguez said during the ESPN telecast of the opening game between the Yankees and the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park.
The mood at the ballpark was undoubtedly affected by the news that young star outfielder Juan Soto would be out of the lineup for the defending World Series champion Nationals because of a positive test for the coronavirus.
After greeting Little Leaguers and playing catch with Rivera on the South Lawn of the White House, Trump said he was not concerned about whether baseball would be able to handle the COVID-19 situation in this truncated 60-game season.
“No, no, no. They’ll be able to take care of it. They’re going to be able to take care of it,” Trump said.
He said he would watch at least part of tonight’s Yankees-Nationals game.
“You had a pitch that broke a lot of bats, Mariano. I’ve watched many, sitting with George, good old George who is watching you right now,” Trump said. “He’s very proud of you, but sitting with George and I watched you break more bats.”
Presumably, Trump was referring to watching games with longtime Yankees owner George Steinbrenner at the old Yankee Stadium.
“The Lord gave me that great pitch,” Rivera said of the cutter that was the Hall of Fame closer’s trademark.
The conversation with the president and the “Sandman” was part of ESPN’s pregame coverage on baseball’s opening night.
After chatting, the president and Rivera gathered with the Little Leaguers and their coaches for a group photograph.
Rivera could be seen appearing to sign some autographs, and the president and Rivera returned to the White House minutes later.