While half the country is obsessed with the cases that the Supreme Court is about to decide—not to mention the cases that the Court may or may not take up next—Justice Alito left the Beltway this week for greener pastures. Specifically, he headed south to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, and threw out yesterday's first pitch.
Alito's love of baseball, and of the Philadelphia Phillies specifically, is no secret. A few months after joining the court in 2006, he threw out the first pitch at Philadelphia's Citizen's Bank Park -- "a dream come true," he said, even though "it was kind of demoralizing that the Phanatic caught it without a glove." And then, to be fair, he threw the first pitch for a team playing against the Phillies. (It was the Tampa Bay Rays; then again, it was a spring training game, so it didn't really count.)
Alito talks to reporters about baseball. He talks to lawyers about baseball. He's written a law review article about baseball. The Green Bag, a law journal perhaps most famous for its line of Supreme Court bobblehead dolls, even put Justice Alito on a baseball card. (And then, like any good baseball fans, the Bag spent several pages analyzing his stats.)
Even at the State of the Union Address, you can find Justice Alito shaking off pitch calls.
Given all of that, you might think that his interview with Sherrington would just stick to precedent and recycle well-worn one-liners. You'd be wrong. Instead, the justice showed off his Phillies fan credentials by expounding upon Michael Young, the Phillies' new arrival, as well as Cliff Lee, a pitcher that the Phillies acquired once, traded, re-acquired, and probably soon will trade again:
How’d you like the Michael Young trade, your honor?
“I was hoping that he would recapture some of what he was in his best years here.”
Not so much, in other words.
Any interest in returning Cliff Lee?
“I think the Phillies are going to have to make some moves to get some young players. We’ll see what happens. They’ve become an old team with a lot of injuries. Not a lot on the farm system that can come up right away.”
Lee’s making an awful lot of money.
“Yes, he is. But he’s pitching really well.”
But most importantly, the Associated Press took care to photograph a catcher's-eye view of Justice Alito's delivery, which allows baseball fans to do what we do best: compare him to his competition. And he actually fares pretty well, at least when compared with the current and former commander-in-chief.
Of course, President Bush is a ringer. If Dubya is Cole Hamels, Alito's probably John Lannan: Hamels is an ace, Lannan has been good enough to stick around in the big leagues.
That may not sound like much, but as President Obama knows, it could be worse. Much, much worse.