It was low and outside and failed to reach home plate, but the (pre-recorded) hometown crowd roared as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, threw the ceremonial first pitch of a coronavirus-shortened Major League Baseball season Thursday evening
The world champion Washington Nationals described Fauci as a “super fan” as they announced he would do the honors when the team hosted the New York Yankees before an empty stadium. Fauci is often seen wearing a Nationals face mask as he helps set public health policy for the U.S. during the pandemic.
A statement from the Washington Nationals regarding Opening Day. pic.twitter.com/iejxXeAA4V— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 20, 2020
Players recognized the Black Lives Matter movement in a pre-game ceremony by holding a long black ribbon that connected both teams. They knelt in silence to remember George Floyd and other Black victims of violence. They stood when the national anthem was played.
All games, like the opening game, will be played without fans to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
President Donald Trump will throw a ceremonial pitch at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 15.
The last time Trump went to a major league park was a World Series game in Washington in October where the crowd booed loudly.
No spitting, no high-fives
This year’s baseball season began four months late because of the coronavirus, while team owners and players worked out how the shortened season would be played during a global pandemic.
Instead of 162 games, the 30 major league teams will play 60 games.
Players will be tested for the coronavirus every two days. They’ll undergo temperature checks twice a day.
No fans will be allowed in the stands, but some parks will pipe in crowd noises to make the stadium feel as normal as possible.
Several other baseball traditions are being suspended – no spitting on the field, no celebrating a win with high-fives and hugs, and no sitting in the dugout for players not in the day's lineup. Instead, they will sit in the empty stands.
The shortened schedule calls for most games to be played within a team’s division, with the rest scheduled to take place in its geographic region to avoid a lot of travel. For example, Fauci’s beloved Nats will play all of their road games in Eastern cities – Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Tampa and wherever the Toronto Blue Jays end up playing.
Canadian authorities say the team cannot play in its home park because of COVID-19 cross-border travel restrictions with the United States.
As of Thursday night, the Blue Jays were still looking for a home park with the minor league stadium in Buffalo, New York, the most likely spot.