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04/03/06 3:54 PM ET

President Bush tosses Opening pitch

Commander in Chief spends time with both clubs Monday

CINCINNATI -- President George W. Bush became the first sitting president to throw out a ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day in Cincinnati, when he tossed to Reds catcher Jason LaRue prior to Monday's game at Great American Ball Park.

Bush is just the second sitting president to participate in a pregame ceremony in Cincinnati. President Richard M. Nixon threw out the first pitch prior to the 1970 All-Star Game at Riverfront Stadium.

Cincinnati native William Howard Taft is the only other sitting president to attend a game in Cincinnati. Taft was also the first sitting president to participate in Opening Day ceremonies, when he did so on April 14, 1910, in Washington, D.C.

Bush is the fifth sitting president to attend a Cubs game. Taft was the first, attending Cubs-Pirates games in Pittsburgh on May 29, 1909, and the aforementioned game in 1910.

Herbert Hoover attended the Oct. 14, 1929, Cubs-Athletics World Series game in Philadelphia. Ronald Reagan was at Wrigley Field on Sept. 30, 1988, for the Cubs-Pirates game. Reagan tossed out two first pitches and broadcasted an inning and a half with Harry Caray. President Bill Clinton attended the Cubs-Brewers game at Wrigley on June 30, 1999.

Reds manager Jerry Narron was a coach for the Texas Rangers in the early '90s during Bush's tenure as the club's majority owner.

"He's a man of character," said Narron of Bush. "Everybody should respect him as a person. Regardless of whether you agree with his policies, America's blessed to have someone like him in office."

Current Vice President Dick Cheney threw out the first pitch on Opening Day in Cincinnati in 2004. Bush's father, former President George H. Bush, did the honors prior to the inaugural Opening Day at Great American Ball Park in 2003.

Jimmy Carter is the only president who did not throw out a ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day during his tenure.

Bush visited both clubhouses prior to the game.

Bush greeted Cubs manager Dusty Baker and said, "This is the year, right?" He also spoke briefly with coach Gary Matthews.

Fans, media and club personnel encountered heightened security at Great American Ball Park on Monday due to Bush's visit. Baker had to hand over his pearl pocketknife to security when he arrived at the ballpark.

"It's the first time they took it at the ballpark," said Baker. "They've taken it at the airport when I forget [to pack it]. It's a pocketknife that you use for cutting apples, doing whatever."

The Reds players, dressed in their game uniforms, greeted Bush individually at their lockers and had very brief exchanges with the President.

"Good luck, God bless," Bush said to many of the Reds players.

Bush greeted Reds pitcher Kent Mercker, who hails from the Columbus, Ohio area, by saying, "This is your territory."

Mercker then retrieved a Bush-Cheney cap from his locker.

"I was going to wear this hat, but it didn't match," said Mercker to Bush.

Bush spent a little extra time with Ken Griffey Jr., who gave President Bush a bat.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and Reds majority owner Bob Castellini accompanied the president on the visit to the Reds clubhouse.

Bush shook hands with Castellini and Selig in front of the Reds dugout before strolling to the mound amid mostly cheers from the sold-out crowd at Great American Ball Park.

Accompanying Bush to the pitcher's mound was Mike McNaughton, a US Army Sergeant first class and decorated veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom. When McNaughton received his prosthetic leg, he ran with Bush at the White House.

Also joining Bush at the mound was Paul Brondhaver, a recipient of the Bronze Star of Valor and Purple Heart after being injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and John Prazynski, whose son Taylor was killed in Afghanistan in May. Taylor was 20 years old and a graduate of Fairfield High School near Cincinnati.

Bush spent one-half inning in the 700 WLW radio booth with Reds Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman.

"No matter your political persuasion, it's still an honor and a thrill to spend time with a President of the United States," said Brennaman.

Jeff Wallner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.