President Donald Trump recruited Baseball Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera to help mark baseball’s Opening Day with a group of Little League players at the White House on Thursday.
Trump said the return of sports was “a tremendous thing psychologically for our country” in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mariano made a surprise appearance at Trump’s late afternoon virus briefing. The president said the two of them would be heading outside to see “some beautiful young Little Leaguers outside with a great future ahead of them. They’re already practicing on the front lawn of the White House.”
Mariano, the former New York Yankees relief pitcher, and a Trump supporter, looked on as the president announced he was canceling the Florida portion of the Republican National Convention next month due to the coronavirus.
Trump praised Rivera’s work with children and his records as a closer for the president’s favorite team. He has previously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rivera.
Rivera’s old team was in Washington to open up Major League Baseball’s abbreviated season Thursday night against the defending champion Nationals. Dr. Anthony Fauci was set to toss out the ceremonial opening pitch.
Trump, for his part, said he’d been invited to toss out the opening pitch on Aug. 15 at Yankee Stadium.
The president praised Major League Baseball for moving forward.
“I think Major League Baseball is setting an example by playing to empty stadiums. And so are other sports,” Trump said, mentioning football and golf, among others. “We want to get back to normal. The key is to get back to normal.”