The Art of the First Pitch

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Presidents sign bills, wage wars and negotiate treaties, but perhaps their most pivotal and perilous duty could be -- the first pitch.

Through global conflict, recessions and resignations, every president since William Howard Taft in 1910 has done it.

"It doesn't matter who the president is, if you're a sports fan, throwing out the first pitch for any baseball game is one of the most wonderful treats a president can have," said Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for President George W. Bush.

VIDEO: Presidents and celebrities have participated in this American tradition.
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"It's a wonderful break from the pressures of the job, and baseball is so deep in the ethos of the American people it is the national pastime," said Fleischer.

After Sept. 11, George W. Bush pitched a perfect strike at Yankee Stadium before Game 3 of the World Series in October 2001.

"The next morning he came in and said to me, no matter what happens in the course of my presidency, that is going to be one of the highlights," said Fleischer.

On Tuesday, President Obama will get his first chance to throw out a first pitch as president at the Major League All-Star game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Mo.

Obama tossed the ceremonial first pitch at U.S. Cellular Field for his hometown Chicago White Sox during the 2005 American League Championship Series, when he was still a senator, but declined the White Sox's offer to throw the first pitch at their home opener last April.

It is essential Americana -- essential, but not easy. Many have tried and many have embarrassed themselves.

Take, for instance, Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, who launched an anemic toss at opening day for the Reds in April 2007, missing his target by at least 10 feet and hitting an umpire.

Or Academy Award nominee Mark Wahlberg, who earlier this month at Fenway park in Boston, unleashed a sidearm ceremonial first pitch that went just a bit outside, all the way to the back stop.

Mariah Carey tested her arm, while wearing four-inch heels in Japan last year. The result? A slow roller that barely made it to home plate.

Nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis met a similar fate at Seattle's Safeco Field in 2003, showing a shockingly weak arm for a world-class athlete.

The Art of the First Pitch: How to Avoid Embarrassment

Even President Bush, who threw that perfect strike at the 2001 World Series, uncorked a stinker in his first time out as president in April 2001 when he threw out the first pitch at the opening of Miller Park in Milwaukee.

So, how does one avoid such shame? I set out to give it a try myself by throwing the first pitch in Pawtucket, R.I., home of the Red Sox Triple A farm team. Hey, you have to start somewhere.

My only goal was to avoid complete humiliation. Pawtucket Red Sox catcher Mark Wagner gave me some tips.

"Fake it to make it," Wagner said. "Act like you really want to do it, and you're like I want to do this 100 percent and I'm going to throw the best I've ever had."

But would it be enough with the crowd watching, the pressure mounting? Would it make me look less like Mariah Carey and more like Mariano Rivera?

The moment of truth arrived ... the pitch!

A strike! At least that is what I am calling it. Despite advancing age and general lack of coordination, there was nary a hint of embarassment.

Take that Mariah. President Obama, you're up.

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