A long Washington Post piece about baseball’s opening day and the century-old tradition of presidents attending the season’s launch features this wonderfully blunt and cynical assessment, from the authors, on why Donald Trump has abandoned the practice.
Why, then, has Trump refused to appear at the Washington Nationals opener, even after welcoming the World Champion Houston Astros to the White House last month? The answer is clear: Throwing out the first pitch does not fit into his political agenda. It does not offer him any tangible benefits. The president has shown that unless an event benefits him personally, he has little interest in it.
Now that’s cynical! Alas, as one of the poor souls tasked with watching the great orange garbage fire’s daily acts of bluster and spite, I suspect it’s also a wee bit wrong. Donald Trump is not a strategist, no matter how much his handlers and ad-hoc tweetfights attempt to portray him as one; Donald Trump is ego, made flesh. Donald Trump is not dodging baseball’s opening day because it does not fit into agenda. Donald Trump is, like last year, dodging baseball’s opening day because he doesn’t want to be booed by a stadium full of people.
The man never appears in front of any crowd that is not pre-screened to weed out the malcontents. His continued rally appearances—a weird curiosity of his presidency that obliged the White House to pretend he was just getting a very, very early start on the 2020 elections—are the only joy he seems to find in office, but every other sort of public appearance has been few and far between. The man’s motorcade has rerouted, on a recent trip to his private Florida club in which only his paying supporters may enter, so that he would not be subjected to the indignity of looking at protester signs.
The man cannot handle the presence of anyone who does not treat him like royalty. He’s more likely to dive into a barrel of leeches than sidle into a stadium filled with unscreened Americans already on their second beers. At least the bloodsuckers wouldn’t talk.
And then there is the matter of the first pitch. We do not expect much of ceremonial first pitches, but Donald has been forever pushing the notion that he is a strapping sportsman of no small renown, a man with a near-professional golf game—that you must never, ever, be allowed to watch—and for Donald, sending a baseball into the dirt halfway from home plate would be a catastrophe far more personal than killing off millions in a new Korean war. The man is petty.
So yes, Donald Trump is going to chicken out, again, on attending baseball’s opening day. Not as strategy, but as self-preservation. The man is a balloon of narcissistic self-absorption; the small prick of hearing boos from an audience allowed to boo him if they want to would be too much.