Al Drago/Associated Press
One of the nation’s most prominent figures amid the COVID-19 pandemic will usher in the beginning of the 2020 MLB season Thursday.
The Washington Nationals announced Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will throw out the first pitch for Thursday’s opener against the New York Yankees.
“Dr. Fauci has been a true champion for our country during the COVID-19 pandemic and throughout his distinguished career, so it is only fitting that we honor him as we kick off the 2020 season and defend our World Series championship title,” the announcement read.
The announcement also called Fauci a “Nats super-fan,” which is something he reminded the United States about in June when he wore a Nationals-themed facemask while testifying before a House committee as part of the coronavirus task force:
“I think you’ll probably get enough buy-in from people who are dying to see a baseball game, particularly me,” he said. “I’m living in Washington, we have the world champion Washington Nationals. I want to see them play again.”
There will be no fans at Nationals Park on Thursday as Major League Baseball attempts to play a 60-game season that was shortened because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a lengthy back-and-forth between the players and owners on a number of issues, including payment and health and safety protocols for the shortened campaign.
The Nationals are looking to defend their crown in what will be a sprint to the playoffs.
They still have Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg anchoring the rotation and Juan Soto spearheading the lineup, so it would not be a surprise to see them contend once again even though slugger Anthony Rendon moved on to the Los Angeles Angels in free agency.
One thing is for sure: Fauci will be cheering them on even as he does what he can to help the United States emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic that has plagued the country for months.