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‘A thrill of a lifetime’ | News

Before he was president, George H.W. Bush was the first baseman for the Yale Bulldogs.

Bush was one of the first athletes to ever play in the College World Series. In the 1947 season, the Bulldogs went 19-10-1 during the regular season and made it to the inaugural College World Series, but ultimately lost to the University of California 8-7.

Bush was the team captain his senior season in 1948 when they returned to the CWS after a 21-9-1 season. However, his team saw another loss, this time against the University of Southern California 9-2.

As the Bulldogs’ first baseman, Bush had a .976 fielding percentage in 1947 and a .992 fielding percentage in 1948.

On June 5, 1948, Bush met legendary baseball player Babe Ruth and shook hands with him.

According to Baseball Almanac, Bush attended 10 games while in office. Bush became the first U.S. president to throw out a first pitch in Canada when he attended a Toronto Blue Jays game on April 10, 1990.

In 2016, Bush’s two favorite universities, Texas A&M and Yale, met on the diamond. The former president threw out the first pitch.

A&M bested the Bulldogs 13-0, but for A&M head coach Rob Childress and the rest of the team, it wasn’t the victory that made the experience special.

“To have [Bush] here on the field with his former school, Yale, and to be at Texas A&M has got to be one of the best moments of my career in front of several dog piles and championships,” Childress said.

The Aggie’s head coach said he met Bush at a dinner about 10 years prior and had nothing but respect for the former commander in chief.

“President Bush has a gift where any time you’re visiting with him, he makes you feel like what you have to say is the most important thing in the world, and I think there are a lot of people around the world that could attest to that,” Childress said. “That is a gift that very few people have, and if you’ve met a person like that, you will never forget it.”

Bush threw the pitch from his wheelchair to then-freshman pitcher Stephen Kolek, Class of 2019.

Kolek was tasked with catching the first pitch that season, but when it was announced Bush would throw it out against Yale, some of his A&M teammates suddenly wanted the position.

“I remember I had to defend my job a little bit,” Kolek said. “It was an awesome experience and one that not very many people ever get to do. He’s done so much for the country, and to even be in the same proximity with him is amazing, much less catch a pitch from him.”

The Yale players met Bush and his wife, Barbara, the morning before one of the games while taking a tour of his library, which Yale coach John Stuper called “a thrill of a lifetime.”

“The entire team gathered around him and he was as down to earth and friendly as you could imagine,” Stuper said. “He engaged the players, asking them where they were from, and seemed pleased to know of our large contingent of Texas boys.

A little while later, we were asked to step back, and former first lady Barbara Bush joined the group.”

The A&M-Yale game also marked the release of the Aggies’ red, white and blue jerseys that they now wear in home sweep opportunities. A&M’s director of baseball operations Jason Hutchins helped design the patriotic uniforms with Adidas. With the President in attendance, it was the perfect chance to debut the new uniforms.

“It’s not like A&M to go outside the maroon and white,” Kolek said. “But when you’re supporting America like that, it’s an awesome feeling.”

All in all, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all parties involved, and one that the players and coaches will never forget.

“[That] was an extraordinary day that we will all remember for the rest of our lives,” Stuper said. “We may forget the scores of the games, but we will never forget the day we had the opportunity to meet two of the finest Americans our country has ever produced. I feel blessed to have been part of it.”

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