Obama Turns in Solid Performance on the Mound

President pumps fist after tossing ceremonial first pitch at MLB All-Star Game.

July 14, 2009 -- President Obama may not have a future in the big leagues after he leaves the White House, but he held his own on the mound tonight, throwing out his first ceremonial first pitch as president before Major League Baseball's All-Star Game.

As Obama, wearing a Chicago White Sox jacket in honor of his favorite team, walked to the mound, there were scattered boos but mostly cheers.

With no hesitation or pause, Obama threw a solid pitch, if a bit of a floater, from the rubber, reaching the glove of St. Louis Cardinal Albert Pujols.

Check out ESPN's Photo Gallery of Presidential First Pitches.

Obama smiled during his windup and release and pumped his fist after Pujols caught the ball. The Cardinals first baseman may have provided a presidential edge, inching up a bit on home plate.

Obama shook hands with St. Louis baseball legends Bob Gibson, Bruce Sutter, Lou Brock, Red Schoendienst, Ozzie Smith and Stan Musial, who were on the field for the first pitch.

Sitting in the Fox broadcast booth during the second inning, Obama explained why he wore the White Sox jacket.

"Everybody knows I'm a White Sox fan. My wife thinks I look cute in this jacket, so, between those two things, why not?" he told Fox's Tim McCarver and Joe Buck

Obama said he is not a Chicago Cubs hater, like so many White Sox fans are.

"I just don't root for them, that's all," he said.

Obama made not claims to having great baseball skills.

"I'm a great baseball fan. I didn't play organized baseball when I was a kid, so I think some of these natural moves aren't so natural to me," he said.

The president deferred from picking a 2009 World Series winner but said there is a lot of parity in the sport, which he considered a good thing.

"Everybody around the country has a little bit of hope for their team. ... Maybe the exception would be the Nationals who are still young and just had a new ballpark," Obama said, referring to his new hometown team in Washington.

Before the game, Obama visited both the American and National league clubhouses.

"Hey, Derek Jeter, what's going on man, how ya doing?" Obama asked the Yankee shortstop as he shook his hand. "Congratulations, I've been a big fan for a long time.

"This guy's like the old guy around here," Obama joked about Jeter, who was playing in his 10th All Star game.

Obama ribbed Phillies slugger Ryan Howard and Pujols about Milwaukee Brewer Prince Fielder beating them in the Home Run Derby Monday night.

"Hey Albert, what happened, this guy ... in your home park? What's going on man?" Obama said to Pujols, who came in fourth in slugging contest.

Obama said during the game that in the clubhouse, Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino, a Hawaii native, gave him some Macademia nuts.

The president got some solid advice from Hall of Famer Willie Mays on the flight from Michigan to St. Louis tonight. The 78-year old center fielder, who played for the New York and San Francisco Giants, said he told Obama to "follow through" on his pitch.

Mays recalled meeting Obama on election night in Chicago last fall and staying up until the early morning. He said on Air Force One that he reminded Obama "that I cried for most of the night."

The event will also feature the four living ex-presidents: Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter. They will appear in a Major League Baseball video recognizing several dozen Americans for their community service.

Whether it's draining a three-pointer for American troops in Kuwait or playing a pick-up game with the North Carolina Tar Heels, Obama has shown he's got game on the basketball court.

But he does not have a long record of exhibiting a natural talent for America's pastime.

In 2005, his first year as a senator from Illinois, Obama, a lefty, threw out a first pitch at a White Sox playoff. The devout Sox fan admitted afterwards that he was feeling the pressure.

"Had I thrown a one-hop, I think, whatever aspirations I had, they would have shown that clip over and over again," he said in an interview with the Springfield State Journal-Register that year.

"I was more nervous than I was before the Democratic National Convention" the year before, he said.

Earlier today, Obama said he wanted to loosen up his arm a bit for the big game and recalled that first pitch in 2005.

"I just wanted to keep it high," he said."Now, there was no clock on it. I don't know how fast it went. But if it exceeded 30 miles per hour, I'd be surprised. But it did clear the plate."

White House aides said the president did not do any practice pitching at the White House but would warm up his arm in St. Louis before the game.

The glove the president used, made by Wilson Sporting Goods with "Obama 44" printed on it, will go to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., after the game.

The tradition of presidential first pitches dates back to 1910 when William Taft, not exactly an athlete at over 300 pounds, did the honors from his seat in the bleachers in a game between the Washington Senators and Philadelphia Athletics.

Since then nearly every president has taken their best aim at the catcher's glove.

Obama is the fourth president to throw out a first pitch at the All-Star Game, after John F. Kennedy (1962 in Washington), Richard Nixon (1970 in Cincinnati), and Gerald Ford (1976 in Philadelphia).

George W. Bush, a former co-owner of the Texas Rangers, may have set the gold standard with a perfect ceremonial pitch in 2001.

With New York and the nation still reeling from the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush took to the mound at Yankee Stadium before Game 3 of the World Series between the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

In the HBO documentary "Nine Innings From Ground Zero," Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter advised the president to not take any shortcuts and throw from the pitching rubber, a major league distance of 60 feet, 6 inches.

Jeter recalled that he had one piece of advice for the president: "Don't bounce it, they'll boo ya."

There would be no "Bronx cheer" that night for Bush, who sent a strike right over the plate. The crowd erupted into chants of "U.S.A., U.S.A."

"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," former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer said.

Bush was not always so warmly received, as politics and polling started to creep into the baseball stadium.

In 2005, Bush kicked off the inaugural season for the Washington Nationals, the team that brought baseball back to the nation's capital after a 33-year absence. As Bush walked to the mound in front of his hometown crowd, the boos were much louder than the cheers.

The same greeting awaited his unpopular vice president, Dick Cheney, when he threw out the first pitch for the Nationals the following season.

ABC News' John Berman contributed to this report.