WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s low-profile appearance Sunday night 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 United States and its allies could have provided the president a rare moment of bipartisan comity, especially amid a divisive impeachment inquiry.
The president and first lady Melania Trump entered a lower-tier box to the left of home plate as the game got underway. At that point his presence wasn’t formally announced and it was not shown on in-stadium video monitors, 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. The president’s supporters often chant “Lock her up!” at his campaign rallies, a reference to 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
The boos ended only after the video screen cut to a shot of service members waving to the crowd and then showed a message thanking the military. Trump attended the game with five wounded veterans.
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 seven innings before heading back to the White House. The Astros took a 3-2 lead in the World Series with a 7-1 victory in Game 5.
Until Sunday night, 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, Marco Rubio of Florida and David Perdue Georgia. Also in the group were a pair of Republican congressmen, Matt Gaetz of Florida and Kevin Brady of Texas.
“I think everybody is excited,” Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg said before the game. “It’s the president of the United States, so there’s obviously beefed-up security. 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.”
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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 percent of the vote in the District of Columbia in 2016.
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said he discussed with Trump whether he would like to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, but the president declined while citing the disruption that would cause fans getting to the ballpark.
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 the president.
Jose Andres, a prominent local restaurant owner and humanitarian, threw out the first pitch to a roaring, sustained ovation. The 50-year-old Spaniard has a history with Trump, too, both in business and in politics.
Andres 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 after Trump’s controversial comments about Mexican immigrants during the presidential campaign. Legal action ensued and the dispute was settled in 2017.
USA Today columnist Christine Brennan said she ran into Andres an hour and a half after his ceremonial pitch and asked if he interpreted the crowd’s reaction to him as a statement supporting his activism against Trump.
Andres said he would prefer not to comment, except to say: “I’m an immigrant. Today we celebrate immigrants on a field full of immigrants.”