Nats Ready for Obama to Take the Hill

Prez to continue Opening Day pitch tradition

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    The Prez is no stranger to first pitches. He toassed the ceremonial first pitch before the 2009 MLB All-Star Game in St. Louis.

    The Nationals found perhaps the only pitcher who can trump Roy Halladay's debut with the Phillies.

    President Barack Obama is scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Washington Nationals host the NL champion Phillies.

    He's a lefty without a whole lot of experience, and one of his big recent victories came by the eye-popping score of 219-212.

    Of course, that was a health care vote in the House of Representatives, not a baseball outing. The left-hander is Obama, who will mark the 100th anniversary of presidential first pitches by performing the ceremonial duty Monday at Nationals Park.

    “I'm going to be warming him up,” Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez said of baseball's First Fan. “I'm going to take a picture with him, if he'll let me. It'll be exciting.”

    Cool customer Ryan Zimmerman gets the honor of catching the actual first pitch. “It's just a pitch. I've met Bush and those guys before,” he said.

    The Gold Glove third baseman might need to exhibit his best range to save the Commander in Chief some embarrassment. Obama didn't grow up playing organized baseball and nearly bounced his only previous presidential first-pitch attempt at the All-Star Game in St. Louis last year.

    “I'll do my best,” Zimmerman said. “I can't promise anything, but I'll do my best.”

    The Nats could use some extra excitement as the franchise rests in a sort of holding pattern while awaiting the expected June arrival from the minors of Stephen Strasburg, last year's No. 1 overall pick and the projected Opening Day starter in 2011 and beyond.

    Holding the seat warm in the meantime is John Lannan, getting the Opening Day nod for the second straight season. The 25-year-old left-hander admits he didn't cope very well the so-called “ace” label in 2009.

    “Last year, I kind of struggled Opening Day. It was new to me. I tried to do too much, I think,” Lannan said. “This time around, it's going to be exciting. It's home. I'll go out there and throw as if it's a regular game -- which it is, you know?”

    Well, not really.

    Opening Day is one of the few dates the Nationals can actually fill their ballpark, and having Obama on hand adds to a distinctly Washington spectacle that began when President William Howard Taft made a ceremonial toss to Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson in April 1910.

    Zimm tossed in his own bit of Nationals optimism when asked if Obama's appearance might be an effective way to steal some of Halladay's thunder as he makes his National League debut.

    “Well,” Zimmerman said, “Lannan might be able to, actually.”