The Voice of the Lookouts recalls former President Bush’s first pitch

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – It was an exhibition game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Baltimore Orioles at the new Lookouts stadium on April 1, 2000.

Cal Ripken Jr. was there, and so was Ken Griffey, Jr.

And, to start it all off was former President George H.W. Bush.

His appearance, Lookouts Director of Broadcasting Larry Ward recalled was for the most part a surprise.

“We had announced there was going to be someone special throwing out the first pitch, but nobody ever got the word. We all knew who it was within the family, but nobody got the word until he showed up,” Ward said.

“The excitement kept building and building and when it was former President Bush for the first pitch everybody just kind of went ‘wow’.”

With Barbara by his side, Bush threw one right to then city council member Yosef Hakeem.

Ward said the idea to have him throw the first pitch came from the owner at the time, Frank Burke.

He said Burke’s family was friends with the Bush family.

“He just had this, he would come up with these crazy ideas, but he found out that they we’re going to be vacationing anyway, they didn’t have anything going and so he just asked them,” Ward said.

It wasn’t the first time the former Republican President visited Chattanooga.

He had been to the area multiple times in the past, but this was a little different in that his visit was about baseball.

“President Bush was a longtime baseball fan,” Ward said. “He was on the Yale baseball team, captain of the team, never played professionally, but he was an athlete all of his life, just absolutely loved coming and spending a few moments, first pitch. They didn’t stick around a long time, but they were here and all of us on the staff got an autograph baseball with Barbara and George’s name on it. So, it was kind of fun.”

Ward said he can remember having an encounter with Bush while he was there, but it was brief.

He said it was a busy first day in the stadium.

 

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