July 17, 2008


Bush hosts T-ball game, MLB players at dinner (AP, 7/16/08)

Bush presided over a Tee Ball game on the South Lawn, then hosted a social dinner Wednesday in honor of Major League Baseball for about 240 players, members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, baseball officials and fans, administration officials and lawmakers.

The group, which included Baltimore Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar, eight-time MLB all-star pitcher John Smoltz and Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, dined on crab salad, rib-eye steaks and a dessert called "Peanuts and Cracker Jack."

Afterward, in his third White House performance, country musician Kenny Chesney sang about summertime, drinking wine from Dixie cups and seeing the world from the seat of an "old blue chair."

"It doesn't get better than this," Bush said after the performance in the Rose Garden. "Country music in the Rose Garden celebrating baseball."

Bush hosts 'Tee Ball on South Lawn' (Jeff Seidel, 7/16/08, MLB.com)
Everything made this warm July afternoon feel and look like a special baseball day. A small stadium-like facility was constructed on the White House's South Lawn, not too far from where the President greeted the World Series champion Boston Red Sox just before the start of this season.

There was a field outlined on the grass. In addition, miniature grandstands were built down the left- and right-field lines, plus a set of bleachers in right-center field. The outfield fence -- with yellow topping all around -- made the field look like a miniature stadium. It was 80 feet to the left-field fence and 85 to right, but 110 to straightaway center.

"That's going to take a good poke," Greenberg told the crowd.

Greenberg drew a laugh with that, but he was right as just one ball in the two games played came close to the fence.

The first game pitted the Central versus the Eastern teams. Game Two brought together the Western and the Southern squads. Scores weren't kept, and the kids were encouraged to keep running all the time -- with broadcasters Mike and Mike treating it like a Major League broadcast by giving biographical information about each player when he or she stepped up to the plate and then calling the play like a real game.

Chesney got everyone's attention with his rendition of the National Anthem before the first contest. Then, during the break between the two games, the United States Postal Service unveiled a commemorative stamp for the 100th anniversary of the song "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," which Chesney then sang for the crowd.

The players also got some help from game commissioner Frank Robinson, filling in for Nolan Ryan, who was sick and couldn't attend. Players also got the chance to talk to base coaches like Smoltz, Millar, Sandberg and Monday.

Smoltz said participating in this event brought back some memories for the Atlanta pitcher, who said he's progressing well in the rehab from the right shoulder surgery that's sidelined him for the season.

"Seeing kids play a game that you do for a living, that I've prospered from and been able to do a lot of things [with], is pretty neat," Smoltz said. "It [makes] me remember my days of tee ball."

Sandberg said he had similar feelings and was impressed with what the event was all about.

"Being here at the White House, and really for what it represented, [it was great] to be part of that. It just speaks very well of what Little League means and how important it is. It was just fun for me to be here," Sandberg said. "They were having a blast. Just to take baseball back to that level and what it means to hit a baseball and to make it to first base -- it's a big deal."

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 17, 2008 9:06 AM
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