Regardless of what you think of his politics or his presidency, there is no debate that George W. Bush possessed a level of charm and charisma that not every elected President can boast. The man can work a room.
A few minutes after walking out with retired U.S. Air Force staff sargeant Nicholas Bradley, who threw out the first pitch before the Rangers’ home opener on Friday against the Houston Astros, Dubya took a few questions from the media. He has been out of office for several years, but the man still knows how to control a press conference.
“I would be happy to answer any questions you have,” he said. “Let me rephrase that - I’d be happy to dodge any questions you have.”
Immediately after it ended, he graciously walked among the crowd to shake hands. He even asked where a few of the veteran writers who covered the team when he was the Rangers’ managing general partner - “Where is T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com)? Where is Gerry Fraley (Dallas Morning News)? Where is Randy Galloway (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)?”
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I told him that Galloway has retired, to which the President said: “He’s probably in rehab.”
History will ultimately decide what type of President Geroge W. was, but I always felt he missed his calling - he would have been a perfect commissioner for MLB. Baseball has traditionally been the sport of Presidents, and there has never been a president for whom the game meant as much as it does to 43.
I asked The President why baseball remains so important to him.
“I was raised by a guy who loved baseball,” Bush said. “My dad was a good baseball player. He raised me as a baseball fan, really. I was living in Midland, Texas. There wasn’t much to do except play outdoors. I played a lot of baseball. My favorite player was Willie Mays. ... When the opportunity to buy the Rangers (arose), Rusty Rose and I jumped. It was an awesome experience for our family. I think it was how I was raised. I love the game. I love other sports, but I love baseball. Opening Day is a reminder of how much fun the summer and spring will be watching the games on TV, or coming out here. Or at least I hope it’s fun.”
During Bush’s presidency, he was often made a laughing stock for his tendency to stumble and butcher sentences about a variety of topics. When he conducted interviews and the topic of sports came up, there was never a stumble. He sounded confident. Maybe it was a coincidence.
Contrary to popular belief, Bush is not an idiot. He is a bright man, and I always thought he would have been a great commissioner. He served as the Rangers’ owner from 1989 to ‘98. Today, he is 68 and very much retired from his previous jobs.
I asked him if he missed either - running the country, or running the Rangers.
“No. I really don’t. Eight years is plenty to be President. That’s a long time,” he said. “It was an honor of a lifetime to serve, but Laura and I were thrilled to come back home. In terms of baseball, you know, I am able to enjoy the game as a fan. I can remember those August, 102-degree days and we are about eight games out and we are trying to market the team. It was a great experience, but the seasons ended up being really long. I am much more suited to be a fan.
“Someone asked me about being commissioner in baseball, and I am not sure if I was ever in the running. I am not sure what is harder - 535 members of the House and Senate, or 32 baseball owners.”
There goes my theory that the man never stumbles talking about sports. There are only 30 baseball owners.
Watch the full press conference here:
Mac Engel, 817-390-7760