April 19, 2016


Behind-the-Scenes Moments Show President Bush's Leadership Outside of Spotlight (Dana Perino,  April 19, 2016, Daily Signal)

A couple of weeks before the game, Jared Weinstein, the president's personal aide, came to Tony Fratto, the principal deputy press secretary, to ask if he'd like to practice with President Bush a couple of times during the week before the game. Tony said yes and brought his glove to the White House, knowing that this was probably going to be one of the coolest days of his life.

At the appointed hour, Tony went out to the South Lawn, feeling a little awkward wearing suit pants, a tie, and dress shoes to toss around a baseball. The president wasn't so encumbered--he'd just finished his biking workout, so he was warmed up and wearing athletic gear. Tony tried to focus. No matter how much fun it was to play ball with the president, the outcome was important. We needed he president to throw a strike.

The first thing Tony discovered while tossing the ball with President Bush is that he does it like he does everything else physical--running, biking, golf, whatever: hard and fast, with no warm-up. So they started throwing and the president was throwing hard. Tony had to figure out what to do.

"I had the president throwing bee-bees at me like we were kids back home," Tony said. "Now, I can throw hard, too, and it was like the president was challenging me to throw harder. So I threw it harder. And we're going back and forth when all of a sudden I remembered I needed to keep my ego in check. I thought, 'The only way I can screw this up is if I injure the president.' So I focused--good catches, good throws, don't injure President Bush."

Out there on the South Lawn, the moment became extremely emotional and meaningful to him, Tony said. And he's not talked about it until now.

"After the shock of President Bush's hard throws, and the sheer coolness of catching ball with him on the South Lawn, I realized it was really the first time I'd ever played catch with someone like a father figure," Tony said. "I love my dad, and he was an important role model for me growing up, but he was not a sports guy. I was a very good baseball player as a kid, but I never played catch with my dad. literally never caught baseballs with any adults--only other kids.

"I realized this after about twenty or thirty throws with President Bush, and at that point I wasn't at the White House with the president--I was just in the backyard with dad. I don't think of President Bush as a father figure, but as the president, and my friend."

Posted by at April 19, 2016 7:56 PM