Thursday, 18 Apr 2024

Rishi turns down invite to throw first pitch at baseball game in the US

The prime minister declined throwing the ceremonial first pitch in front of thousands of spectators at a US baseball game.

Rishi Sunak was a guest of honour at a Major League competition between the Washington Nationals and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

He was cheered onto the pitch yesterday as he was seen wearing a Nationals jacket.

To mark the coronation of King Charles III, June 7 was celebrated as UK-US Friendship Day at Nationals Park in Washington DC.

As part of the day baseball fans watched a military flypast, and the Royal Marines and US military bands played God Save The King and The Star-Spangled Banner.

Mr Sunak, who previously studied at Stanford University in California, met the players before the game and spoke to business leaders, service personnel and veterans at the ground.

The ceremonial first pitch – a long-standing tradition in baseball which sees a special guest throw the first ball to mark the end of the festivities and the start of the game – however was taken by British Army veteran Stuart Taylor.

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He is a former warrant officer and chief executive of the Allied Forces Foundation, which supports injured servicemen and women.

The prime minister’s spokesperson denied that the PM had chickened out of throwing the first pitch.

They said: ‘These sorts of things are pitched to us from time to time but, at this event, the first pitch is going to be thrown by Stuart Taylor, who is the CEO of the Allied Forces Foundation.

‘That, I think we felt, was the most appropriate way of highlighting the breadth and depth of the UK-US relationship, particularly focusing on service personnel and veterans.’

Mr Sunak claimed he ‘wasn’t actually ever meant’ to throw the first pitch, and said he was ‘more focused’ on who is going to replace Jack Leach for England’s Ashes cricket series against Australia.

After the pitch, he asked Mr Taylor: ‘How was that, quite good right?’

The prime minister perhaps wished to avoid embarrassment after previous big figures have been booed by crowds, including Barack Obama while he was president in 2009 and Bruce Willis in 2019.

Other famous faces who have pitched include Donald Trump in 2006, long before he became president, and Victoria Beckham in 2007.

But the former speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, showed Mr Sunak how it was done at the age of 83.

She was cheered as she threw the opening ball at a Nationals v D-Backs game on Tuesday evening.

The PM laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday, to mark the military ties between the UK and the US.

He is in the US on a two-day visit and is set to meet with President Joe Biden today, and announced this morning that the UK will host the first global summit on artificial intelligence safety.

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