The Washington Nationals are set to kick off the 2020 season on July 23 as they defend the World Series title. The MLB team will face off with the New York Yankees and will feature a special guest throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. Dr. Anthony Fauci will head to the mound and make the toss, likely while wearing his Nationals face mask.
The Nationals released a statement on Monday announcing the news. The team praised Dr. Fauci for his work throughout the pandemic and declared it "fitting" to have him on the mound. This news prompted a wide variety of responses on Twitter from supporters and critics alike. Some called for the team to give Fauci season tickets while others said he would "change his mind" and leave the team without someone to throw the pitch.
"The Washington Nationals are thrilled to announce that Nats super-fan, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has accepted our invitation to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day, Thursday, July 23," the team said in a statement Monday. "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 our 2020 season and defend our World Series Championship title." Fauci grew up as a Yankees fan in Brooklyn, but he later began rooting for the Nationals when the team relocated to Washington D.C. in 2005.
"It kind of triggered in me that kind of fierce affection for a team that I hadn't had since I used to idolize all the Yankees," Fauci told the New York Times. "I just fell in love with the Nats. I don't consider that I'm being disloyal to the Yankees. I consider it as sort of a replacement for my boyhood love for baseball, which I still have."
Fauci has put this love on display during his time taking part in press conferences about the coronavirus. He wore the distinct Nationals face mask at the podium, which featured the team name in various typographies. He also faced questions in April about the return of baseball. Dr. Fauci did not know at the time if his favorite sport would return, but he did express the hope that he would watch the Nationals defend their title.
"I think you'll probably get enough buy-in from people who are dying to see a baseball game, particularly me," Fauci said. "I'm living in Washington, we have the world champion Washington Nationals. I want to see them play again."