President Donald Trump on Monday welcomed what he called a record crowd on the South Lawn of the White House to celebrate the hometown Nationals’ first World Series title and the first World Series victory for the region in nearly a century.
The lighthearted ceremony kicked off with a rendition of the Nationals’ de facto anthem, “Baby Shark,” played by the U.S. Marine Band. During his roughly 30 minutes of remarks, Trump called the earworm of a song “a powerful little tune” for the team. He recounted the Nationals’ tumultuous season, capped off by a series of come-from-behind wins during the playoffs, but couldn’t resist taking a few jabs at the media and joking about the impeachment inquiry imperiling his presidency.
“America fell in love with Nats baseball,” he told the massive crowd gathered on the lawn below, noting that there was “a lot of power” in attendance. “It’s all they wanted to talk about — that and impeachment. I like Nats baseball much more.”
Of the Nationals’ rocky start to the season, he quipped: “I bet the media was with you all the way, right?”
Ryan Zimmerman, who was the franchise’s first draft pick in 2005 when it returned to Washington, presented Trump with a Nationals jersey with the No. 45, and Trump joked to the crowd that first lady Melania Trump had once assured him that he could likely throw a baseball as fast as pitcher Max Scherzer.
His speech was punctuated with loud cheers as he brought up various Nats stars in attendance, including catcher Kurt Suzuki, who donned a signature “Make America Great Again” hat as Trump hugged him from behind in a moment that quickly caught fire on Twitter.
When the audience broke out in chants of “four more years,” Trump joked that they must have been rooting for four more World Series titles by the Nationals.
During his highlight reel of the Nats’ title run, Trump only mentioned those in attendance at Monday’s event. He also made no mention of his rare outing to Game 5 of the World Series, where he was greeted by boos and some chants of “lock him up.”
Visits to the White House by title-winning sports teams have become particularly fraught during the Trump administration, politicized much like other seemingly nonpartisan and non-controversial White House traditions during the hyper-divisive Trump era.
The president has yanked invitations for several teams after prominent athletes said they would not attend the usually unremarkable events, while other teams have taken their time in planning their White House celebration. Instead, Trump has turned to honoring individual sports legends in medal ceremonies at the White House.
Monday’s visit from the Nationals was no different, if less discussed due to the quick turnaround between the team’s win and their visit. Several high-profile members of the team were not in attendance at the presidential celebration. Nationals closer Sean Doolittle said in an extensive interview with The Washington Post over the weekend that he was declining the White House invite on moral grounds, citing Trump’s treatment of minorities and marginalized groups.
Other notable players not on the roster of attendees distributed by the White House before Monday’s event included Anthony Rendon, among the favorites to be named National League MVP, Victor Robles and Michael Taylor.
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