WASHINGTON >> President Donald Trump’s low-profile appearance tonight at Game 5 of the World Series came at a high-profile moment of his presidency. Yet he still drew loud boos and jeers when introduced to the crowd.
Wearing a dark suit and a tie, Trump arrived at Nationals Park just before the first pitch of the Houston Astros-Washington Nationals matchup. Hours earlier, he had announced that U.S. forces had assaulted the hiding place of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed in the raid in northeast Syria.
A military success against a most-wanted enemy of the U.S. and its allies could have provided the president a rare moment of bipartisan comity, especially amid a divisive impeachment inquiry.
Trump and first lady Melania Trump entered a lower-tier box to the left of home plate as the game got underweay. At that point his presence wasn’t formally announced, but baseball fans in the section just below Trump’s suite turned to look toward the box as he arrived. Some waved at the president as he smiled and gave a thumbs-up.
At the end of the third inning, ballpark video screens carried a salute to U.S. service members that drew cheers throughout the stadium. When the video cut to Trump and his entourage and the loudspeakers announced the Trumps, cheers abruptly turned into a torrent of boos and heckling. Chants of “Lock him up!” broke out in some sections.
Trump appeared unfazed and continued waving. Later, some fans behind home plate held a sign reading “VETERANS FOR IMPEACHMENT”. Another banner appeared during the game: “IMPEACH TRUMP!”
The president was on hand for most of the game, departing shortly before the middle of the eighth inning.
Until tonight, Trump had yet to attend a major league game as president even though the White House is a few miles northwest of Nationals Park. A dozen or so congressional lawmakers accompanied the president, according to a list provided by the White House, including Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and David Perdue Georgia.
“I think everybody is excited,” Nationals star pitcher Stephen Strasburg said before the game. “It’s the president of the United States. So there’s obviously beefed-up security. So usually the dogs that are sniffing in our clubhouse are these nice Labs that are super friendly. And today there was a German shepherd that I didn’t really feel comfortable petting.”
Nationals manager Dave Martinez said: “He’s coming to the game. He’s a fan. Hopefully he cheers for the Washington Nationals, and I hope he enjoys the game.”
Trump’s staff has long tried to shield him from events where he might be loudly booed or heckled, and he has rarely ventured into the neighborhoods of the heavily Democratic city. He won just over 4% of the vote in the District of Columbia in 2016.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said he discussed with Trump whether he’d like to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, but the president declined while citing the disruption that would cause fans getting to the ballpark.
Washington Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner told the Washington Post that Trump should be at the game, but he made clear that he did not invite Trump to throw out the first pitch, saying there were many other candidates that should be considered before Trump.
Jose Andrés, a prominent local restaurant owner and humanitarian, threw out the first pitch to a roaring, sustained ovation. He has a history with Trump, too, both in business and in politics.
Andrés has repeatedly opposed Trump’s immigration policies and his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Four years ago, he withdrew from plans to open a restaurant in the Trump International Hotel in Washington following Trump’s controversial comments about Mexican immigrants during the presidential campaign. Legal action ensued and the dispute was settled in 2017.