The most famous person on the field before Thursday opening night game between the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals wasn’t Aaron Judge, Max Scherzer or Gerrit Cole.
It was Dr Anthony Fauci, the infectious disease expert who has been so prominent in America’s response to the coronavirus.
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During his time in the public eye, Fauci has made no secret of his baseball fandom, particularly his fandom of the Washington Nationals.
Fittingly then, Fauci was picked by the Nats to throw out the first pitch of the delayed 2020 season, although it probably wasn't how he envisaged it.
Fauci took the field in a Nats jersey and cap. He had a matching mask covering his face, of course. He stretched out his arm a bit and then uncorked a wild first pitch.
Luckily, there were no fans there to see it, saving the doctor the embarrassment of the inevitable public ridicule.
Unsurprisingly, the coronavirus jokes wrote themselves for fans on social media, even if it was extremely rough on a guy trying to save America from a deadly pandemic.
“Fauci finally flattened the curve,” CBS’ Will Brinson wrote as other viewers lined up to poke fun of him on social media.
Dr. Fauci's first pitch was just trying to social distance from home plate.— Kyndall (@KyndallFreer) July 23, 2020
I don’t understand these horrible first pitches. If you know you can’t throw, save yourself some embarrassment. Turn down the first pitch offer. Love you though Dr Fauci.— aj (@ajae22) July 24, 2020
Dr Fauci’s first pitch is exactly what we needed right now.— flora (@floramcg7) July 24, 2020
Basketball version of Fauci’s ceremonial first pitch pic.twitter.com/MFwPBSVYsd— Jason Collette (@jasoncollette) July 23, 2020
Dr. Fauci’s first pitch at the @Nationals game basically sums up how 2020 is going so far 🤦🏻♂️— Coach G (@Garner_Small) July 24, 2020
Trump to throw out first pitch at Yankees game
Donald Trump could be the next to feel the wrath of the baseball-watching public after accepting an invitation to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at a New York Yankees game next month.
The first pitch is a presidential tradition dating back to 1910, and it will mark Trump's first time participating.
The US president made the announcement shortly before Dr Fauci's now infamous moment in what was a politically charged first match back for the MLB.
Players from both clubs wore T-shirts saying Black Lives Matter during batting practice at Nationals Park, and the letters “BLM” were stenciled into the back of the mound at the centre of the diamond.
Yankees players decided that they wanted to kneel for 60 seconds before the anthem. New York officials then asked Washington if that time could be added to the pregame script. The Nationals decided they wanted to join the Yankees.
Today, and every day, we come together as brothers. As equals, all with the same goal - to level the playing field. To change the injustices. Equality is not just a word. It’s our right!— MLB (@MLB) July 23, 2020
Today we stand as men from 25 nations on 6 continents.
Today, we are one. pic.twitter.com/vKUGdRfwgQ
“We’ve had conversations as an organisation. We’ve had conversations as a team. We’ve had smaller group conversations. Conversations with one another,” New York manager Aaron Boone said hours before the game.
“And we’ve kind of decided ... we’ll, as a team, have our own demonstration on the field.”
That display followed a series of videos shown on the outfield scoreboard: about Black Lives Matter, showing major league players such as New York’s Aaron Judge and Washington’s Howie Kendrick; about the Nationals’ post-season run and concluding with the COVID-19 outbreak.