Obama throws out ceremonial 1st Pitch

WASHINGTON: Opening Day is about pomp and circumstance. That''s especially so when a Nationals jacket embroidered with the presidential seal hangs in the home team''s clubhouse and the players there are instructed not to stand behind their most high profile visitor for security reasons.

Yes, Barack Obama paid his first visit to Nationals Park Monday, becoming the 13th sitting president to throw out the ceremonial first pitch -- Nats third baseman Ryan Zimmerman caught his high-and-outside offering -- on Opening Day in Washington.

"I can''t imagine anything bigger," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

Unlike the last time he threw out a first pitch -- at the All-Star Game in St. Louis -- Obama was not decked out in the colors of his favorite team, the White Sox, but he couldn''t resist pulling on a black and white Chicago cap as he strode to the pitcher''s plate.

ShareThere was a smattering of boos then, and throughout Obama''s appearance, but they were mostly drowned out by cheers and chants of "USA!"

Once the game got under way, Obama paid a visit to the Nationals'' TV booth and was asked to explain his last-minute wardrobe addition.

"I''m a South Side kid," said the president. "I''ve got to make sure [White Sox owner] Jerry Reinsdorf doesn''t get too angry with me."

The Nationals'' TV crew got its revenge by showing a super-slow-motion replay of Obama''s first-pitch form.

"This is heartbreaking, right here," Obama moaned.

Speaking of pitchers, the president is apparently no different than any other baseball fan when it comes to his eagerness to see last year''s top draft pick, Stephen Strasburg, in a Nationals uniform.

"I can not wait to see this kid pitch," Obama said. "Everything I''ve seen tells me he''s the real deal."

Obama''s predecessor, George W. Bush, was the last president to throw out a first pitch in Washington (the largest jeers from the crowd were reserved for him during a video montage of past presidents throwing out the first pitch). Bush delivered it on the night Washington''s shiny new stadium opened two years ago.

But the Nationals have to be hoping a visit from the Commander-in-Chief becomes more of a yearly tradition.

Nationals manager Jim Riggleman grew up nearby in Rockville, Md. and remembers a time when the president was an annual fixture at the Opening Day festivities for the Washington Senators.

"It was just such a part of the routine every year," Riggleman said. "The president threw it out pretty much every year, and then somewhere along the line we got away from that.

"I''m glad we''re doing it again."

This is the 48th time a president has thrown out the first pitch, and the 100th anniversary of the first presidential first pitch by William Howard Taft in 1910. In the six years since the Nationals moved to Washington from Montreal, the president has thrown out the first pitch three times in D.C.