- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2008

President Bush took 51 children out to the ballpark — on the White House’s South Lawn. They came from every state and the District to play in Wednesday’s first U.S. all-star T-ballgame in White House history. And Mr. Bush, the only U.S. president to play Little League, once again got to relive his youth, having watched 19 T-ball games in his backyard over the past seven years.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this historic occasion,” he said before reciting the Little League oath and the famous words, “Play Ball.”

Teams from Northern states played those from Central states in one game, and teams from Western states played those from Southern states in another. Each team had one at bat and one trip to the field during the double-header.

Nobody kept score, but just having earned the right to play seemed good enough. A selection panel at Little League International reviewed hundreds of applications — which included a letter of recommendation from the player’s coach, league president and schoolteacher or principal — before making a selection.

“We were really surprised when we found out Jack was chosen. It’s such an incredible honor,” said Shannie Moore, 38. Her 5-year-old son, Jack, just finished his first Little League season in Anchorage, Alaska.

Country music star Kenny Chesney opened the game by singing the National Anthem, followed by remarks from Frank Robinson, a baseball Hall of Famer and honorary commissioner for the games. Nolan Ryan, also a Hall of Famer, was scheduled to act as commissioner but was under the weather.

Fellow Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz, Baltimore Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar and two-time all-star Rick Monday each coached a team during the hourlong games. Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg, hosts of ESPN’s Mike & Mike in the Morning, provided commentary between batters.

Jack didn’t show off his trademark move, a slide into home plate, because he said he wasn’t feeling it. His favorite part of the day was a pre-game luncheon at which players traded baseball cards with their pictures, stats, and an excerpt from their recommendation letters.

At an intermission ceremony, U.S. Postmaster General Jack E. Potter unveiled a commemorative stamp honoring the 100th anniversary of the song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” and at the end of the games Mr. Bush presented an autographed baseball to each player.

“It was so cool and awesome to meet the president,” said Meredith Bailey, 7.

Meredith played on the Southern team and said her favorite part was getting to run the bases and hit off the tee. It was her first T-ballgame. Her league in Greeneville, Tenn., doesn’t offer that game, in which player hits a ball off a tee instead of attempting to hit one thrown by a pitcher. So she spent the last two weeks learning how to hit off a tee.

Little League Baseball and Softball is the world’s largest youth sports organization, totaling 2.7 million participants. It also is the only organization of its kind to be chartered by Congress. Roughly800,000 children across the country, 4 to 7, play Little League T-ball.

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