Originally created 06/08/01

Bush to throw first CWS pitch



OMAHA, Neb. -- If his last performance on the mound is any indication, President Bush should start warming up now.

The White House confirmed Thursday that Bush will throw the first pitch at the College World Series on Friday.

Practice didn't make perfect for Bush in April when he threw Major League Baseball's ceremonial opening day toss at the Milwaukee Brewers' new stadium. Bush, a lifelong fan of the game and former managing partner of the Texas Rangers, tossed around a baseball with aides for a week to prepare for the event.

Despite that, the president froze during his follow-through, skipping the ball in the dirt before it thumped into the catcher's mitt.

Bush will get another try Friday before 25,000 fans at Omaha's Rosenblatt Stadium.

Before the start of the opening CWS game, which pits Tulane against Stanford at 2 p.m. CDT, the president also will meet with all eight of the teams playing in the series, including local favorite Nebraska.

Bush's visit will be brief. He is expected to be in Omaha only for about three hours.

The president is scheduled to fly into Offutt Air Force Base near Bellevue after stopping in Des Moines to speak at a news conference promoting the recently enacted $1.35 trillion tax cut. After the game, Bush plans to fly to his ranch near Crawford, Texas, to spend the weekend.

The president's visit will be the second he has made to Nebraska in the five months since he took office.

Bush's last visit was less recreational. In February, he stopped in Omaha while seeking support for his $1.6 trillion tax cut plan from moderate and conservative Democrats. His target in Nebraska was Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson, who eventually supported a lesser $1.35 trillion cut.

Bush's familiarity to the state is in sharp contrast to the lone visit of former President Clinton, who waited until the last days of his presidency to travel to Nebraska - the last of the 50 states for him to visit during his eight years in office.

Nebraska's heavily Republican populace no doubt helps motivate Bush's frequent visits. He won all 93 of Nebraska's counties in last year's general election, a state not carried by a Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.

Not everyone greeting Bush at Rosenblatt Stadium will be adoring fans. At least two protests are planned outside the stadium during the president's arrival.

The Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy group, plans to hand out more than 20,000 George Bush "rookie" baseball cards that list the president's "environmental career stats." The protests will coincide with television ads denouncing the president's national energy plan.

Another 40 to 50 people separate from the Sierra Club plan to protest Bush's positions on the environment, energy, education and the presidential election.