President Donald Trump’s announcement that he was throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium on August 15 caught staff by surprise because there was no trip on the books, a senior administration official told CNN.
The official said there had been no indication from the Yankees that an invitation had been extended, at least at the staff level, though Trump said in his announcement that he’d communicated directly with the team’s president Randy Levine.
Trump’s announcement came 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 the first pitch at the season opener between the Yankees and the Washington Nationals in Washington, DC.
The New York Times reported that Trump “had been so annoyed by Dr. Fauci’s turn in the limelight … that he had directed his aides to call Yankees officials and make good on a longtime standing offer from (the team’s owner) to throw out an opening pitch,” citing a conversation with an official familiar with Trump’s reaction. The newspaper noted that “no date was ever finalized.”
A senior administration official could not confirm to CNN Trump’s irritation that Fauci was throwing out a first pitch at Nationals Park. Instead, the official suggested Trump had seen it reported that he was the only president in modern history to have eschewed the tradition and was annoyed at appearing unpresidential.
The tradition of US presidents throwing out the first pitch at Major League Baseball games stretches back to 1910 when President William Howard Taft threw the first ceremonial pitch in Washington on Opening Day that year.
Speaking from the White House briefing room podium last week, Trump said 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.”
Speaking following Trump’s announcement, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said she was among those who was surprised by Trump’s announcement.
“I was not a part of the discussions as to how that’s going to work in terms of the first pitch,” she said. “I’ve learned about it when you guys did, and he’s very excited to throw it out.”
Several days after saying he would throw out the first pitch, Trump said on Twitter that he wouldn’t be able to throw the opening pitch on August 15 because of his “strong focus” on the coronavirus pandemic. “We will make it later in the season!” he wrote.
CNN’s Devan Cole and Leah Asmelash contributed to this report.