Anthony Fauci, health care superstar and baseball super fan, will throw the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day for the Washington Nationals, the baseball team announced Monday.
“Dr. Fauci has been a true champion for our country during the Covid-19 pandemic and throughout his distinguished career, so it is only fitting that we honor him as we kick off the 2020 season and defend our World Series Championship title,” the Nationals announced in a statement.
Fauci has been one of the most recognizable faces of the White House’s coronavirus response efforts during the pandemic and has served as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since the Reagan administration. Polls have routinely ranked him as one of the most trusted figures in the nation’s coronavirus response, garnering favorable responses from Democrats and Republicans alike.
Fauci is also an open Nationals fan, sporting a Nats-themed mask while testifying before Congress last month. During an interview with The New York Times in April, Fauci said that he has played baseball since he was a kid. The native Brooklynite said he grew up supporting the Yankees, but since his move to the D.C.-area, “I don’t think there’s any place that I relax more than sitting in Nats Park and watching my now world champion Nats play a game.”
Still, Fauci has expressed caution at returning to sporting venues, where large crowds of screaming fans could pose a major risk for coronavirus spread. He advised the season to end by the fall, concerned that cooler weather could make conditions more dangerous for players.
Major League Baseball also announced measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus last month, including a ban on spitting. The start of the season was pushed to Thursday, four months after the initial planned beginning. The season will also be significantly shortened and played in empty stadiums — at least until it’s safe to gather in large groups again.
The Nationals shook D.C. last year when they won the 2019 World Series, the first for the city since 1924 and the first for the team since its return to Washington in 2005. On Monday, the team was eager to share some of the glory, calling Fauci in a tweet: “World Series champion Dr. Anthony Fauci.”