President Obama to kick off 2009 ASG

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama plans to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the All-Star Game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on July 14.

The White House said Tuesday that Major League Baseball's focus on community service matches with Obama's service initiative this summer, known as United We Serve.

"The central theme of the 2009 All-Star Game is community service, celebrating the extraordinary work being done by ordinary people," baseball commissioner Bud Selig said. "We are thrilled that we can come together with President Obama, who has encouraged a renewed spirit of national service, and illustrate a call to action in our communities. President Obama will continue a great tradition that joins our nation's leader and the national pastime."

Obama, a White Sox fan, will be the fourth president to throw out the first pitch at an All-Star Game, following John F. Kennedy (1962 in Washington), Richard Nixon (1970 in Cincinnati) and Gerald Ford (1976 in Philadelphia).

In addition, Franklin D. Roosevelt attended the 1937 game in Washington, and George H.W. Bush went to the 1991 game at Toronto with Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and the 1992 game at San Diego with President Carlos Salinas de Gortari of Mexico.

Ford (1978 in San Diego) and Ronald Reagan (1989 in Anaheim) attended as former presidents.

Obama didn't accept an invite from the Reds to throw out the first pitch at Saturday's Civil Rights Game in Cincinnati against the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox also were said to have invited Obama before their opener against Kansas City on April 6, and Nationals manager Manny Acta had hoped Obama would throw out the first pitch prior to Washington's home opener against Philadelphia on April 13.

As a U.S. Senator, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the White Sox defeated the Anaheim Angels 2-1 in Game 2 of the 2005 AL Championship Series.

Meanwhile, the Class A Brooklyn Cyclones renamed themselves the Baracklyn Cyclones, in tribute to the new president, on Tuesday and gave out a bobblehead doll of the president. Tickets cost no more than $16, cheaper than nosebleed seats at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.

The action included ceremonial first pitches thrown out by Amber Lee Ettinger, the Obama Girl, and presidential lookalike Randall West.

The real first family didn't take the Cyclones up on their invitation to attend.

Players on the Mets farm team wore white jerseys with "Baracklyn" across the chest in red, red-and-white stripes on one sleeve and a mixture of stripes, white stars and a blue background on the other.

In a promotion invented by Cyclones general manager Steve Cohen, some fans received free Band-Aids as part of "Universal Health Care." People named Barack got in for free, anyone named McCain or Palin received free bleacher seats and plumbers named Joe got two free tickets. There was one plumber named Joe and a Barak Zahavy in the overflow crowd of 8,760, Cyclones spokesman Dave Campanaro said. The Hall of Fame even called, requesting a jersey, before Brooklyn's 7-3 victory.

It's all part of the fun of Minor League Baseball, coming off six straight years of record attendance. Its 176 teams combined to draw 43.2 million fans last year; through Sunday they attracted an average of 3,993 per game.

Despite the recession that's down only 27 fans, or less than 1 percent, from last year's average through the same time.

The 30 major league teams averaged 29,412 through Sunday, a drop of 6.6 percent from the average of 31,484 through June 21 last year.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.