When America's pastime officially returns on Thursday, it will be ushered in by none other than the country's leading infectious disease expert.
The Washington Nationals announced Monday that Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day.
The reigning World Series champions will play the New York Yankees at home to kick off the regular season, which has been shortened from 162 to 60 games by the coronavirus pandemic.
"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 the 2020 season and defend our World Series Championship title," the team said in a statement.
Fauci has been one of the country's most visible public health experts throughout the coronavirus pandemic. He has also been vocal about his love of the Nats.
He wore a face mask with the team's name and logo to testify alongside other members of the White House coronavirus task force at a congressional hearing last month.
And in April, when Major League Baseball was still on hiatus, Fauci spoke of wanting to see the team back in action, even if it meant games resuming without in-person spectators.
"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."
The season typically starts in April and ends in October, but the MLB put opening day on hold because of the pandemic. It will operate with enhanced health and safety procedures, including requiring players to use their own personal equipment when possible and practice physical distancing.
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