MLB

Dr. Fauci’s Flop Reminds Us of When Simone Biles Aced the Ceremonial First Pitch

We get that throwing from the mound is tough enough for highly paid professionals some days, but Dr. Anthony Fauci’s ceremonial first pitch ahead of the MLB opener between the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals was arguably the worst such effort of the century.

The saving grace for director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was that there was no crowd present as Major League Baseball finally got underway in the COVID-19 pandemic era.

Otherwise, the laughter could have been, uh, infectious.

Simone Biles set an impossibly high standard for Dr. Fauci

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The joke of the day is that Dr. Anthony Fauci shouldn’t quit his day job based upon his ceremonial first pitch Thursday before the Washington Nationals hosted the New York Yankees in the MLB opener. And, of course, he won’t since Fauci’s job is infinitely more important than a kids’ game.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 has been deeply immersed in battling the coronavirus since late last year; it’s doubtful that Fauci, who grew up watching the likes on Mickey Mantle, took time to practice that first pitch.

And even if he nailed the throw, Fauci would have still been competing for the silver medal. That’s because U.S. Olympic gymnastics sensation Simone Biles will forever be remembered for the most impressive first pitch ever.

Wearing a Houston Astros jersey and jeans, Biles took to the mound before Game 2 of the 2019 World Series and busted out a backflip with a twist.

That move alone was so dazzling that she could have just rolled the ball to the plate and still have been considered a success. Instead, she made a throw to veteran outfielder Jacob Marisnick at home plate in Minute Maid Park that lacked zip but made up for it with accuracy.  

Russell Wilson had more at stake than Simone Biles

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Simone Biles was not burdened with high expectations before her dazzling first-pitch performance. That’s because she may be an elite athlete but Biles doesn’t make her living by throwing things.

The stakes are highest for baseball players, past and present, for obvious reasons. But football quarterbacks might rate a close second. Accuracy is of paramount importance when running the offense, and sports fans have an expectation that star quarterbacks are also proficient at throwing baseballs.

In that respect, Russell Wilson delivered the goods. Coming off a strong rookie year that would set the stage for him leading the Seattle Seahawks to a victory in Super Bowl 48 after the following season, Wilson showed solid zip on the fastball and may have even caught the corner of the plate for a strike.

Just as Dr. Fauci established a low bar for medical professionals and other civilians to follow, Wilson set a high standard for all future quarterbacks on the mound.

The most memorable first pitch of them all

The nation was still reeling on Oct. 31, 2001, when George W. Bush threw out the first pitch before Game 3 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium. New York City had suffered the worst of the 9/11 terrorist attacks seven weeks earlier, plunging the city and the country into shock and fear.

Baseball, like other sports and much of everyday life, had been suspended in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, but playing World Series games now in Yankee Stadium symbolized a collective resolve to move forward just as the country always has.

Introduced by iconic PA announcer Bob Sheppard, the president appeared on the field to applause that turned to roaring cheers. Wearing an FDNY jacket, he smiled and waved to the crowd as he walked to the mound.

Under the circumstances, including wearing a bulletproof vest, any throw close to the plate would have been fine. Instead, the first president ever to have played Little League baseball threw a strike to Yankees backup catcher Todd Greene.

It conveyed a confident, albeit unspoken, message to the country and the world that the United States was back.