Bush tosses ceremonial pitch, addresses recognition of 'problem'

WASHINGTON -- As the U.S. portion of the major league schedule got under way Sunday night, President Bush said he thought December's Mitchell report on drugs in baseball "was part of the cleansing process."

Commissioner Bud Selig, also in attendance at Nationals Park, expressed confidence that an agreement can be reached to strengthen baseball's drug-testing policy.

"I'm happy with the recognition that it was a problem," Bush said Sunday night during the ESPN broadcast after throwing the ceremonial first pitch. "I certainly hope the players continue to work to clean up the sport."

A day ahead of most other teams, the Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 3-2 on Ryan Zimmerman's ninth-inning homer off Peter Moylan. They opened their new ballpark with a little help from the former Texas Rangers owner, who expressed worry that performance-enhancing drugs will be developed that escape detection.

Selig said "Yes" when asked if was confident of an agreement with the players' union. He also cited the lack of reliable test for human growth hormone as a significant hurdle to cleaning up the sport.

"There's negotiations ongoing," Selig said during Sunday night's inaugural game at Nationals Park. "I'd rather not comment other than that."

"It's not perfect," Selig said. "It's going to change. There are chemists out there working."

Wearing a bright red team jacket, Bush threw the ceremonial first pitch -- high and a tad to the third-base side of the plate -- to Nationals manager Manny Acta before Washington inaugurated its stadium against Atlanta before a sellout crowd of about 41,000.

"I didn't want to bounce it, that's for certain. That's why I came in with high heat," Bush said on the TV broadcast.

There was a mixture of boos and cheers for Bush.

Those in the upper deck of the $611 million ballpark could see the Capitol and the Washington Monument. The cherry blossoms planted beyond the left-field bleachers weren't yet in bloom.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.