Catcher Tanner Lubach figures George W. Bush has thrown his share of ceremonial first pitches, so he’ll be expecting a strike.
When the former president takes the mound before Saturday’s opening game of the 2011 College World Series, the all-state selection from Lincoln Southwest High School will be behind the plate.
“He’s got a decent arm,” Lubach said of the former president and former Texas Rangers owner. “I’ll be sure to catch a good strike.”
Aside from catching for Bush, Lubach will be in front of 24,500 fans at the inaugural CWS game at TD Ameritrade Park. Is he nervous? Lubach thinks he’ll be alright. “It’s baseball, and I’m pretty comfortable with the sport of baseball.”
The NCAA announced Tuesday that Bush will make a return appearance at the CWS, 10 years after opening the 2001 series early in his first term as president. Back then, Bush threw a strike to Stanford Cardinal catcher Ryan Garko, before shaking hands with players and umpires and watching two innings of the game.
This time, Bush will appear before the 1 p.m. game pitting Vanderbilt against North Carolina.
Little League players from the Memorial Park/Hillside Bluejays will greet Bush on the field.
Lubach, a senior who plans to play baseball at Illinois State University, will be the first shake hands with Bush after the first pitch. Asked if he planned to say anything in that moment, Lubach said, “I guess we’ll just see what happens.”
“It’s going to be awesome,” he said. “I’m really excited.”
Dennis Poppe, NCAA vice president for football and baseball, said in a statement that it is “our privilege to have the former president return and open the series by throwing out the first pitch.”
“It’s great to have the former president back in Omaha for the inaugural game of the College World Series in the new TD Ameritrade Park Omaha,” said Jack Diesing Jr., president of College World Series of Omaha Inc. “Ten years ago, he attended the College World Series and we’re honored to have him back to experience the new home of the series.”
Bush’s family connections to the CWS run deep. His father, former President George H.W. Bush, played in the 1947 and 1948 series as first baseman and captain of the Yale baseball team.
Poppe said Bush also will represent his father with the ceremonial first pitch.
The NCAA said fans will face no special arrangements for traffic, parking or security.
Gov. Dave Heineman and Mayor Jim Suttle will be on hand for the opening game, as will former Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey, who pushed for construction of the $131 million TD Ameritrade Park.
The former president also will attend a hospitality event sponsored by Mid-American Energy.
Mark Fahleson, chairman of the Nebraska Republican Party, said the visit has been in the works for several months.
“George W. Bush remains beloved by the majority of Nebraskans,” Fahleson said. “He’s a good, decent and honorable man. We’re fortunate to have him here for the CWS.”
World-Herald staff writer Paul Hammel contributed to this report.