- The Washington Times - Monday, May 7, 2001

Thirty-two T-ball players broke in the new White House field yesterday, scampering around the bases and scooping up grounders like major leaguers in the inaugural game on the South Lawn.
The two Washington Little League teams — the all-black Satchell Paige Memphis Red Sox and the all-white Capitol City Rockies — faced off in a game with unlimited outs and no scorekeeper.
"Welcome to baseball at the White House," President Bush said to the players and their parents, perched on bleachers in the sunshine. "Were sure glad youre here; this is a historic moment. All right, lets play ball."
With that, the entire 15-player Rockies team took the field, at least eight of them grouped in short center field.
"Theres about 15 players out there, but no one is playing left field," said announcer Bob Costas, calling his first White House T-ball game.
The president placed the first ball on the tee set on home plate, which is adjusted for the height of each player.
The game got off to a quick start, with Martina Tichell Adams slapping a shot to right field on her first swing. She was caught in a double play, though, when the next batter popped out to the pitcher and she ran to second base anyway.
The game featured dozens of foul balls, or at least the T-ball variety, in which the batter hits the tee instead of the ball. Also on display was good sportsmanship, except when one Rockies player, upset that a dribbler went for a base hit, said: "I cant believe they let her run on a foul."
Although the players were between 5 and 8 years old some still in nursery school they played with exceptional talent. On one hotshot slammed by the Red Soxs Brenton Michael Coble, the Rockies Daniel Allen reached up and snatched it out of the air in right field.
"The defensive gem of the day," Mr. Costas said. "The best play in Washington since the Senators left town."
On the other side, Omar Dennis Richards showed off his fielding skills, snagging the first three Rockies grounders at second base and throwing the batters out at first.
"That Memphis infield is airtight," Mr. Costas said.
Red Sox player William Kelly Harrison — who, Mr. Costas noted, "shockingly, … likes pizza and the Rugrats" — one-hopped a ball over the center-field fence, a whopping 110 feet from home plate.
As in all games with new players, there was confusion that bordered on slapstick. On one play, a Red Sox batter grounded through the infield all the way to the right-field red, white and blue covered fence, the ball skimming under at least six outstretched gloves.
At another point, one player failed to run to second as the throw went home. He was carried there by the San Diego Chicken. The team mascot for the Padres provided lighter moments for the young players, at one point putting a ball in his beak and then lifting up his tail as two balls plopped out.
Mr. Costas, a veteran play-by-play man for NBC, provided plenty of light moments as well. When Omar came to bat, he said: "His favorite subject is spelling and he could spell trouble for the Rockies," drawing laughs and groans from the crowd, including Mr. Bush.
He introduced Quintin J. Thomas Jr. by saying, "Asked why he likes baseball, he said, 'Because it allows me to meet the president."
And he noted, with the arcane skill with minutia possessed by all great baseball commentators, that Rockies player Samuel Giagtzoglou was "the first Greek-Australian to play baseball at the White House."
While no score was kept, the Rockies scored at least one run when Andrew Dirks, 5, rambled home from second, his huge batting helmet rattling on his tiny head.
The White House was never in danger of a broken window, mainly because the child-sized field was set up in a secluded spot well away from the mansion. Two huge trees marked the foul lines and spectators watched from a small set of bleachers on the first-base line.
Both teams batted once through their lineups and then traded places in the one-inning, 35-minute game.
After the game, the players lined up and traded high fives before Mr. Bush gave each a signed baseball.
Rockies coach Eric Rosenberg said the ball would not get much use. "Its not a ball to play with," he told son Jacob, 6. "This one Daddys holding onto."
Players and parents then gathered under a canopy of trees for a picnic of hot dogs and hamburgers, potato salad, sodas, peanuts, Cracker Jack and cookies.
Most players said they were not nervous playing before the president and first lady. "I was just trying to catch every ball," said Kendall William Keeling of the Red Sox. At bat, "I tried to hit a home run," he said.
But Dreu Lauren Vanhoose, 8, said she was "glad when the game was over. There were a lot of cameras. It was scary."
Still, she said, it was worth it. "It was my first time at the White House," the Red Sox player said.
The president clearly enjoyed the event as well. He sat in the middle of the bleachers, signing autographs on everything he was handed.


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