Bush attends church, jogs before opening new T-ball season

Monday, May 6, 2002

WASHINGTON -- As "commissioner" Cal Ripken Jr. looked on, President Bush cried "Play ball!" Sunday to inaugurate a second season of his White House T-ball league.

On a brilliant spring day, Bush presided over a game that was supposed to have been played Sept. 16 but was postponed after the terrorist attacks.

"Welcome to baseball at the White House," Bush declared, before sending his Housing and Urban Development secretary, Mel Martinez, to coach first base, and Hall of Famer Tony Perez to coach third.

Bush, his wife and Ripken watched from stands along the first base line as Little Leaguers ages 4 to 8 from Uniondale, N.Y., and Trenton, N.J., took their cuts. There were no innings and no outs; each side batted in its entirety once.

Bianca Officer of Uniondale closed out the game with an in-the-park homer, charging around the bases amid a few Trenton bloopers.

"They really don't understand enough to take it too seriously," Ripken, who retired in 2001 after 21 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, said afterward. Asked whether he'd consider becoming Major League Baseball commissioner, Ripken smiled and said, "This is the kind of job that I would like."

Bush warmed up for opening day with a few laps of jogging at Fort McNair, and attended church.

"Good morning, everybody -- it's a beautiful day," Bush said as he left St. John's Church across the street from the White House.

The president and his wife, Laura, knelt and took Communion after the Rev. Luis Leon exhorted his congregation to "hang in there, be persistent, have resolve" in their faith.

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