07/17/09 8:45 PM ET
Sox take pride in Obama's bold move
Players, staff take notice of South Siders' 'First Fan'
By Jesse Temple / MLB.com
But even an assurance from a reliable source that the president of the United States would be sporting his favorite team's gear while tossing out the ceremonial first pitch left Reifert, the White Sox vice president of communications, wondering if it would come true.
"We figured from the time we heard that until the game, there were a lot of things that could intervene," Reifert said. "So we weren't 100 percent sure that he was going to wear something Sox. But we thought there was a chance."
As an extra precaution, Reifert told pitcher Mark Buehrle, the lone White Sox representative at the All-Star game, to make sure Obama had something White Sox to wear just in case the team's First Fan forgot.
"So, Mark was prepared to hand anything over, and he said that when he saw the president in the clubhouse, he started to say something, and the president was like, 'No, no, I'm going to wear my jacket.'
Sure enough, Obama remained true to his word. Wearing tennis shoes, jeans and his White Sox jacket, he walked to the pitcher's mound in front of 46,760 fans at Busch Stadium and millions more watching on television. And following a lengthy windup, Obama lobbed a slow, looping left-handed pitch into the glove of St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols in front of home plate, drawing a satisfied fist pump from the President.
White Sox first baseman and team captain Paul Konerko commended Obama for displaying his fanhood without reservation.
"I thought it was a pretty bold move on his part," Konerko said, "because it's going to bring into play the questions that come around -- none of which are really life and death questions or that important -- but he could've just gone out there with a Major League Baseball jacket on and called it a day.
"We knew he was a fan before that, but it's nice to see him basically kind of stick his neck out there a little bit. Because now, most politicians or presidents, the grayer an answer you can give, the better. And that's not gray. He wore our team's jacket out there. You don't see that much."
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said the moment should instill a sense of pride in all fans of the South Siders.
"I got a lot of e-mails and a lot of phone calls from people in Venezuela watching the game," Guillen said. "Hopefully we play good enough to make him feel proud of this ballclub. That's our wish. Hopefully in October, we win in the playoffs and then he shows up and is part of this."
During an interview in the FOX broadcast booth in the All-Star Game's second inning, Obama addressed his decision to show his White Sox pride.
"Everybody knows I'm a White Sox fan, and my wife thinks I look cute in this jacket," Obama said. "Between those two things, why not?"
The White Sox organization already has posted three blownup photographs of Obama's throw inside a lobby wall at U.S. Cellular Field. Under the photos, a caption reads, "President Barack Obama Chicago White Sox First Fan."
Reifert watched Obama's toss at home and shared a happy roar with his family upon finally seeing Obama in White Sox black and white.
"We talk a lot around here about Sox pride, and you don't get anybody more powerful than the president of the United States showing it," Reifert said. "And I think that's pretty cool. I think every White Sox fan has the same reaction, regardless of your politics."
Jesse Temple is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.