President Donald Trump is a big sports fan. So it makes sense that he’s planning to attend game five of the World Series on Sunday in Washington – assuming the Nationals don’t sweep the Houston Astros in four games the night before.
But Trump won’t be following in the footsteps of the last Republican president in throwing out the first pitch at a World Series game. Instead, he’ll be sitting in the stands while one of his most prominent critics toes the rubber.
The Nationals announced Friday that chef and activist Jose Andres is slated to throw the first pitch in game five, putting Andres, who has been deeply critical of Trump’s handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2018, directly in front of the President. (Andres also pulled out of a planned restaurant in Trump’s DC hotel following the President’s hard-line stance on immigration.)
“More than 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico, and actually President Trump, as the leader of America, has a lot of blame to take,” Andres said in the wake of Maria, and Trump’s tweets questioning the actual death toll. “His tweet only shows you his lack of empathy,” Andres said. (Andres served more than 3.6 million free meals to survivors of Maria.)
Before the announcement was made that Andres would throw out the first pitch in game five, Trump was asked by reporters whether he planned to do the honors. “I don’t know,” he said. “They gotta dress me up in a lot of heavy armor. I’ll look too heavy. I don’t like that.”
It’s not entirely clear whether Trump was asked and declined or was never asked, although I strongly suspect the latter. Either way, the fact that the Nationals turned to Andres, who owns a number of restaurants in the DC area and has been unflinching in his willingness to call out Trump, sends a message to the President – especially since he plans to be in attendance.
It’s not at all clear that Trump will hear that message. Despite heavy criticism for his rhetoric (and policies) regarding the country’s immigration issue, Trump has remained unbowed. It’s hard to see how a single pitch – even in the World Series – would change anything.
Though first pitches have had larger significance before. George W. Bush’s first pitch in the 2001 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks – just weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks – was viewed, at the moment and now, as a sign of an America unbent and unafraid in the face of terrorism.
Despite Trump’s insistence that he has no desire to throw the first pitch in a World Series in Washington for the first time since 1933, you should know better. Trump is forever comparing himself to those who previously held the position. He is particularly focused on carving his name into the history, which this first pitch would have undoubtedly done.
And that such a prominent critic is slated to get the chance will annoy Trump – at a minimum. Keep an eye on his Twitter feed.