April 4, 2006


Bush sharper than Reds: President on his game at ballpark (HOWARD WILKINSON, 4/04/06, Cincinnati ENQUIRER)

President Bush's ceremonial first pitch was a high-and-outside floater that would have been called a ball in any league, but his 30-second appearance on the field left a deep impression on the Cincinnati Reds' 130th Opening Day. [...]

Bush practiced underneath the stadium with Reds catcher Jason LaRue, tossing about 20 balls inside the batting cage before walking onto the field.

The president called the ceremonial first pitch "my best pitch, which was kind of a slow ball." [...]

Air Force One arrived at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport about 12:35 p.m., an hour and 40 minutes before the president was scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Keith and Carolyn Maupin, the parents of Sgt. Matt Maupin, who was captured by Iraqi insurgents almost two years ago and is still missing, went to the airport to greet Bush.

They rode with him in the presidential limousine to Great American Ball Park.

"He hugged us, asked us how we were doing," Carolyn Maupin said. "I'm always glad to see him. I know he prays for Matt every day."

The Maupins ended up watching the game from the first row behind the Reds dugout.

At the ballpark, Bush was joined by two wounded war veterans who went onto the field with him for the pregame ceremonies - Paul Brondhaver of Union Township, an Ohio National Guard sergeant who was severely wounded by shrapnel in Iraq and now walks with a cane; and Army Sgt. Michael McNaughton of Louisiana, who lost a leg in Afghanistan and was befriended by the president when Bush made a visit to his Army hospital.

John Prazynski of Hamilton, the father of Marine Lance Cpl. Taylor Prazynski, who died in action in Afghanistan last year, also walked onto the field with the president.

Prazynski said that as he was walking out with Bush, who put his arm around his shoulder and listened to the roar of the crowd, "I asked him if he ever gets used to this."

"He said, 'I never will,'" Prazynski recounted. "It was an awesome experience."

Presidential visit a big hit with Reds (JOHN FAY, 4/04/06, Cincinnati ENQUIRER)
President Bush stunned reliever Kent Mercker.

"This is your territory. You're right at home," Bush told Mercker.

Mercker is from Dublin, Ohio.

"How could he know that?" Mercker said.

The visit was relaxed and casual.

"He's so down-to-earth," catcher Jason LaRue said of Bush. "You don't realize you're talking to the president."

Adam Dunn didn't act as if he were talking to the leader of the free world. "Adam Dunn," he said, extending his hand toward Bush. "How's it going?"

Again showing his knowledge of the players, Bush commented on the University of Texas' recent national championship in college football. Dunn spent a year at Texas before concentrating full-time on baseball.


Posted by Orrin Judd at April 4, 2006 9:19 AM
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