Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=112037
Story Retrieval Date: 5/19/2013 8:58:12 PM CST
As the new president received his benediction Tuesday, heads were bowed in the church of baseball.
Fifty South Side elementary students sat riveted through music, prayer and speeches as Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States.
The church they congregated in was that of the Chicago White Sox: US Cellular Field.
The students from McClellan Elementary were invited to watch President Obama’s inauguration at the home of the White Sox in an ongoing effort to interlace the team with the excitement surrounding the famous First Fan.
“We’ve really been thinking about his mission and the call for unity,” Senior Director of Community Relations Christine O’Reilly said Tuesday. “We have an incredibly robust community outreach agenda, and how can we extend that further in response to the president’s call for service?”
In addition to beefing up their presence in the community, O’Reilly said the White Sox hope to ride Obama’s coattails to become a tourist attraction in the city and step out from the shadow of another Chicago baseball team.
“I think sometimes we feel like we’re the stepchild baseball team in the city,” O’Reilly said, “but this is really empowering for us.”
The White Sox also participated in Tuesday’s inauguration by sending their mascot to the Inauguration Parade and posting congratulatory signs for the president on the South Side.
O’Reilly said the White Sox have also extended an invitation for Obama to throw out the first pitch at their home opener later this spring.
While Obama’s fandom has had no immediate impact on ticket sales, Brooks Boyer, Sox vice president and chief marketing officer, said, “There’s certainly going to be an Obama effect on merchandise.”
According to Boyer, while Major League Baseball hat sales are down 7 percent since the election, the White Sox’s are up 25 percent.
Also in attendance Tuesday was Chicago’s first African-American baseball player, Minnie Minoso. Nicknamed “Mr. White Sox,” Minoso, 80, now works for the public relations department of his favorite team. As he watched the inauguration ceremony, he said he was happy for the team and the country.
“It’s nice we can say, ‘We have a president, he is a White Sock,’” Minoso said. “But we still have to win the game on the field, not in the White House.”