Pujols to Obama: 'Don't bounce it'
He is known in some circles as the First Fan, a devotee of the Chicago Bulls, a president so passionate about sports that he went on ESPN a few months ago to announce his bracket predictions for the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
But tonight, President Obama becomes the nation's baseball guy, throwing out the first pitch at the All-Star game in St. Louis, and doing a half inning of sports commentary in the Fox TV anchor booth.
Lots of people are already giving him advice.
Baseball legend Willie Mays is traveling with the president on Air Force One from Michigan (where POTUS was pitching education) to St. Louis, th esite of the ballgame. Hard to imagine they won't talk technique.
Then there's Cardinals all-star Albert Pujols, who's slated to catch the president's debut first pitch. During pregame interviews Monday, the Cardinals' first baseman offered some advice to Obama.
"Lob it up there. Don't try to be a perfect throw,'" Pujols said. "The worst thing, if you throw any first pitch, you don't want to bounce it. That's the advice that I'm going to give. Make sure that you don't bounce it."
Before leaving Washington, Obama was asked during an Oval Office meeting whether he'd been practicing. "I think it's fair to say I wanted to loosen up my arm," he said during a photo-op with Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, adding that he'd been reminiscing about that Chicago White Sox game in 2005 when he threw out the first pitch.
"I just wanted to keep it high," Obama recalled. "Now, there was no clock on it, I don't know how fast it went. If it exceeded 30 miles per hour, I'd be surprised. But it did clear the plate."
Pujols won't be the only Cardinals hero on the field for Obama's debut at a major league game. The six living Cardinals Hall of Famers -- Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Red Schoendienst, Bruce Sutter and Ozzie Smith -- will also be on hand.
And Obama won't be the only president to make an appearance. All four living presidents -- George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter -- appear in a video that honors community service volunteers in a ceremony MLB is calling "All-Stars Among Us."
As for Obama, according to Major League Baseball, he'll be wearing a black glove specifically designed for him by Wilson. The glove includes "Obama #44" written in script and an American flag. After the first pitch, the glove will be authenticated by MLB and sent to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
And that broadcast booth appearance? Fox's Joe Buck says the president will make his cameo appearance in the bottom of the second inning. Buck promised no wild pitches about politics.
-- Johanna Neuman
Photo: President Obama holds up a Philadelphia Phillies jersey given to him by Jimmy Rollins at the White House May 15, 2009, in Washington. Obama welcomed Major League Baseball's 2008 World Champions to the White House. Credit: Win McNamee / Getty Images