College World Series Getting Another W.

June 6, 2001

AP Photo

Associated Press Writer

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - This W. knows his K's.

President Bush might lack his father's on-field credentials, but he's alifelong baseball fan whose boyhood dreams featured the clubhouse, not theWhite House.

The president, a former part-owner of the Texas Rangers, will take his loveof the game to the College World Series opener Friday between Stanford andTulane. His father played in the first two College World Series for Yale.

'Baseball is a pursuit for optimists, just like drilling for oil or runningfor office,' George W. Bush said in his autobiography.

Growing up in Midland, Texas, he played Little League ball and admired NewYork Giants great Willie Mays.

'The seeds of my lifelong love for baseball were sown during these years,first on the Little League fields, then later as I began following players andteams,' Bush said. 'To this day, I can recite the starting lineup of the 1954Giants team.'

After several years in the oil business, Bush joined a group that bought theRangers in 1989 and became managing general partner.

It was with the Rangers that he polished his public relations skills andlaid the groundwork for his first campaign for Texas governor.

Bush bought his share of the team for $600,000. He got $14.9 million when itwas sold in 1998.

At the ballpark, Bush maintained a high profile. He sat in the front row,next to the Rangers' dugout and gave away baseball cards with his picture onthem.

'Sometimes I paid a dear price,' Bush said in his book. 'As the seasonswore on and the Rangers fell behind, the fans became more and more frustrated.'Hey, Bush, more pitching,' they would yell.'

In late 1993, Bush decided to seek the Republican nomination for governor.Reporters from across Texas traveled to Dallas to interview him, and thecandidate made the most of his home-field advantage - the new Ballpark atArlington. Bush fielded questions on taxes, schools and crime while leadingeach reporter on a private tour of the stadium.

After his election, Bush moved into the Texas Capitol, where his governor'soffice was furnished with polished wooden display cases full of autographedbaseballs.

When a vacancy arose on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, Bushappointed Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, baseball's career strikeout leader.

When called upon to deliver the commencement address to the Nacogdoches HighSchool Class of 1999, Bush told the 341 graduates, 'Baseball should always beplayed outdoors, on grass, with wooden bats.'

Is it any wonder, then, that Bush has organized T-ball games on the WhiteHouse lawn or is headed to Omaha, along with the country's top eight collegeteams?

'Here is America's most avid baseball fan and he's coming out to see somereal baseball,' said Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.

Bush's enthusiasm for the national pastime was apparent throughout thepresidential campaign. At one news conference, a BBC reporter asked if thegovernor's childhood ambition was to become president.

Before Bush could answer, several Texas journalists who'd heard it allbefore began laughing.

'Tell her who you wanted to be when you were growing up,' they urged.

'Willie Mays,' Bush replied, grinning.

'And why didn't you?' they asked in unison.

'Couldn't hit a curve ball.'

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