President Donald Trump said Sunday he’s postponed his plan to throw out the opening pitch at a New York Yankees game next month, extending his run as the only modern president to not take part in the longstanding tradition.
The President cited his “strong focus” on the coronavirus pandemic and the economy as reasons for the delay, but still promised, “We will make it later in the season!”
The deferral comes after Trump announced Thursday that he had agreed to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on August 15.
Speaking from the White House briefing room podium, Trump said the team’s president Randy Levine “asked me to throw out the first pitch” at Yankee Stadium. Trump said he accepted the offer and asked Levine, “How’s the crowd going to be?”
“You don’t have a crowd,” the President said. “There’s no such thing.”
That announcement came about an hour before Dr. Anthony Fauci – the nation’s top infectious disease specialist who has recently served as a punching bag for some in the White House – threw out the first pitch at Nationals Park in Washington.
Trump’s plan, however, was met with immediate backlash from New York City officials.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz said in a forceful statement Friday that, “We all deserve better than a careless major league baseball organization that consistently ignores the surrounding community while pandering to an unapologetic white supremacist like Donald Trump.”
That message was echoed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who tweeted Saturday, “After CONDEMNING racism, the next step isn’t inviting it to your pitcher’s mound.”
The tradition of US presidents throwing out the first pitch at Major League Baseball games stretches back to 1910.
On Opening Day of that year, William Howard Taft threw the first ceremonial pitch in Washington. It was a day that marked the start of two historic baseball traditions: later, Taft accidentally invented the seventh inning stretch when he got on his feet, causing the crowd at Griffith Stadium – assuming the president was departing the game – to stand in anticipation of his departure (or so legend states).
Taft’s Opening Day toss touched off an early season tradition that has stretched for more than a century. While presidents in the 1920s and 1930s often threw out the first pitch before World Series games, a president taking to the rubber during the Fall Classic has been much rarer in recent memory.
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 before Trump arrived to his seat.
CNN’s Kristina Sgueglia and Kyle Feldscher contributed to this report.