A die-hard Washington Nationals fan, Dr Fauci, 79, threw the ball short of 60 feet, and left of home plate. The ball was chased down by Nationals relief Pitcher Sean Doolittle.
The ceremonial event begins a shortened baseball season that will start without fans in attendance because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Fauci’s selection to throw out the first pitch for the season opener is a measure of his popularity as a symbolic hero among Americans suffering through the pandemic.
Thursday night’s game pits the World Series champion Washington Nationals against the New York Yankees, one of baseball’s all-time most-winning teams who jumped out to a 2-1 lead in the first inning. Opening day of the baseball season is a major event in the US. Some have advocated making it a national holiday.
“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 honour him as we kick off the 2020 season,” the Nationals said in a statement.
Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. For weeks, he was a prominent figure in President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force briefings at the White House.
He has rise to prominence in the coronavirus pandemic has made him a new pop culture figure. He is a frequent meme on the internet and was portrayed by actor Brad Pitt in the comedy show Saturday Night Live.