Obama sees Strasburg show firsthand

Obama sees Strasburg show firsthand

WASHINGTON -- Ethan Freishtat is 12 years old, and he went to Nationals Park on Friday night with several members of his family looking forward to seeing what rookie sensation Stephen Strasburg is all about.

But they missed the top of the first inning when the security detail for President Barack Obama blocked off an area near their seats. That didn't bother the family, because meeting the Chief Executive was a thrill that made Ethan and his relatives feel a whole lot better.

President Obama -- a noted White Sox fan -- attended Friday's game to see his favorite team. He also got to see Strasburg, who's gaining the most notice in the Major Leagues right now.

But many in the sellout crowd of 40,325 wanted to see the President. He sat in a suite at section 207 -- even with third base -- with a number of people. Many fans milled around trying to get a glimpse or a picture, or simply out of curiosity.

Ethan was one of those, and he happened to be standing near the area where the President sat and got to shake his hand and meet him when security whisked Obama by.

"It was pretty cool, pretty exciting," Ethan said. "It's really special.

Ethan's adult cousin, Peter Gaston from New York, also enjoyed it. A few members of the family were able to meet the President for a few seconds and shake his hand, which turned into a thrill.

"Rarely do you get face to face with the President," Gaston said. "We didn't think they'd bring the President right by us, and ... they brought him through, and we just happened to be a section or two over from him in our seats."

Jeff Campbell, of Takoma Park, Md., also got a close look at the President. He missed the first inning because of the blockade but wound up being about one section away, with Obama in plain view.

"Everybody's taking pictures and really excited to see him," Campbell said. "We got up ... to get something to drink and walked right by him. It was pretty amazing. It was amazing how close he was.'

Campbell also was impressed that Obama wore his White Sox cap to the game in the Nationals' stadium.

"You've got to admire that," he said. "He sticks to his team, he's not a fair-weather fan or anything."

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen also liked the fact that Obama wore his Chicago cap in Washington.

"The President, I just saw him ... and at least he's one that feels very proud to wear that hat he was wearing -- a White Sox hat," Guillen said.

The Chicago players also are aware that Obama makes no effort to hide the fact that he's a White Sox fan and isn't afraid to let the world know.

Paul Konerko expressed a similar feeling to his manager, again talking about the cap, which seemed to be a big subject for many on this night.

"It's pretty cool," Konerko said. "I think he was wearing our hat, which is always kind of cool. Any time the President is around us, whether you voted for him or not, it's kind of a cool thing."

No one knew for sure if Obama went to the game because the White Sox were here, to see Strasburg or both. But many involved with the game had an idea he'd be attending.

"I'm assuming all the people taking pictures of the box, that was him," Strasburg said with a smile. "It's awesome. It's been a great atmosphere these first two outings here."

But Ethan and his family made out the best. They got to see the hottest name in baseball pitch another game and set a Major League record (for the most strikeouts in his first three Major League starts) and also meet the President.

Not a bad night overall. In fact, when asked he could top an evening like this, Ethan gave the sly smile of a 12-year old and didn't hesitate.

"You can't," he said.

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.