The Washington Nationals are returning to the baseball diamond and they’re bringing along a new ringer: Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Describing the nation’s leading infectious disease expert as a “Nats super-fan,” the team said that it was “thrilled to announce” that Fauci had accepted its invitation to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for their opening game on Thursday.
“Dr. Fauci has been a true champion for our country during the Covid-19 pandemic and throughout his distinguished career, so it is only fitting that we honor him as we kick off the 2020 season and defend our World Series Championship title,” the team said in a statement posted to Twitter on Monday.
It’s perhaps an even bigger deal considering that President Trump, whose administration has repeatedly tried to discredit Fauci, has yet to throw his own first pitch, making him the first president to skip the tradition since President William Howard Taft started it back in 1910.
There was some talk of Trump throwing the first pitch at last year’s World Series game, but he balked at the idea, saying that he would have to wear “a lot of heavy armor” to make such an appearance.
“I’ll look too heavy. I don’t like that,” he said at the time.
Instead, celebrity chef José Andrés, a prominent Trump critic, threw out the first pitch as Trump watched in the stands.
Thursday’s opening game against the New York Yankees will be played in an empty ballpark without fans. The MLB is encouraging players on opposite teams not to socialize or come within six feet of each other before or after the game.
Spitting of any kind is also not allowed.
CNN’s Kyle Feldscher and David Close contributed to this report.