WASHINGTON -- As America's fancy turns to springtime and baseball, look for President Bush to take his re-election campaign to the pitcher's mound at Oriole Park for the season's opener April 6.
The White House and the Orioles have not yet officially determined that Mr. Bush will throw out the first pitch at the new stadium. But sources within both organizations describe it as an offer no baseball fan in search of 48,000 votes -- not counting the television audience -- could refuse.
A trip to Baltimore for the Monday afternoon game has already been blocked out on the president's schedule. Details of his appearance are expected to be worked out later this week when a White House advance teams visits the stadium.
This news may not necessarily boost Mr. Bush's poll ratings with Baltimoreans who recall security nightmares associated with past presidential visits to Memorial Stadium: blocked entrances to the parking lot as his motorcade pulls in, metal detectors at some or all pedestrian gates, and a high tension level among the legions of federal, state and city police who almost seem to outnumber fans.
This year would mark the second time Mr. Bush has taken the mound for the Orioles on Opening Day since he became president in 1989. He missed baseball's opener in 1990, and last year he did the honors for the Texas Rangers, who happen to be owned by his eldest son, George W. Bush.
That first year in office, still giddy with the idea of being president, Mr.Bush made Opening Day with the Orioles a major production.
He brought along baseball great Ted Williams, warmed up in the clubhouse and later called the play-by-play for guest, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
But the president doesn't tend to stay long. His pattern at Memorial Stadium was to arrive after most of the crowd was inside and to leave by the seventh inning.