Bush opens third season of T-ball

Monday, June 23, 2003

WASHINGTON -- President Bush ushered in the third season of T-ball on the South Lawn Sunday with two squads of children from Virginia military bases.

"Today we honor the men and women who wear our nation's uniform, and it is our honor to welcome two teams, two mighty squads" from military bases, Bush said before placing the first ball in the tee and yelling "play ball!"

The Little League Yankees from Naval Base Norfolk faced the Little League Braves of Fort Belvoir. The first and third base coaches were Army and Navy servicemen, respectively; the national anthem singer was an Air Force master sergeant; the color guard was a Boy Scout troop from the Marine Corps base at Quantico, Va.; and the band was made up of Coast Guard personnel.

Retired Baltimore Orioles star Cal Ripken Jr. returned for a second season as Bush's T-ball "commissioner." Ripken said he saw the significance of many of military families reuniting after serving in the Afghanistan or Iraq wars.

"In some small way, baseball took my dad away, in a totally different context," Ripken, whose father was a Major League Baseball player, told reporters after the game. "I think that it's cool that they're out there and they're reunited and they're just having fun the way families are supposed to have fun."

No score is kept in the T-ball games, but Sunday's contest featured plenty of action on a sunny second day of summer.

T.J. Flood, 6, of the Little League Braves, hit an inside-the-park home run with a hard drive to right-center.

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