Dave Roberts, Dodgers enjoy special day at the White House
Los Angeles became the first team to make the trip under the Biden administration
Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts smiled as he stepped into position in the East Room of the White House on Friday just before the team was honored by President Joe Biden. Yet the moment his eyes locked on Vice President Kamala Harris, the wattage of his smile increased tenfold.
“I hope Vice President Kamala is there, I’d love to meet her as well as the president,” Roberts said last week when it was announced that the Dodgers would visit the White House during their trip to the nation’s capital for a weekend series against the Washington Nationals. “It’s something I’ve always dreamt about.”
The Dodgers became the first team to visit the White House under Biden’s administration and the first team to make the trip since the global pandemic halted most activities in 2020.
Championship teams making trips to the White House to be honored by the president were once expected and routine.
Until they weren’t. A polarizing administration resulted in invites, reneging on invites and players, coaches and leagues taking a pass to visit the White House in the pre-Biden, post-President Barack Obama era.
No NBA champion visited the White House during that four-year span, and among NFL teams, a trip to the White House by the Philadelphia Eagles, who were invited after winning the Super Bowl in 2018, was canceled less than 24 hours before the team was scheduled to arrive following reports that many players said they would not attend.
Baseball teams continued the tradition in the four years before the Biden administration, but often minus a full contingent. But the Dodgers rolled deep into the White House on Friday with 48 players, coaches, executives and owners filling the three rows behind the presidential podium in the East Room of the White House.
Mookie Betts was one of those players who skipped a trip to the White House during the previous administration, saying, “I decided not to” just before the Boston Red Sox — the team Betts starred on during its 2019 title run — visited the White House in 2019. Betts was there on Friday, standing just behind Biden’s right shoulder, and even received a shoutout from the president, who gave credit to the Dodgers — and sports in general — in helping the nation rebound from one of its most challenging years.
“The pandemic, it upended everything, every part of American life, and the pain and fear in the nation was immeasurable,” Biden said. “I think we discovered that we need sports more than we ever realized. When we go through a crisis, very often sports brings us together to heal, to help us feel like things are going to be OK.”
Biden also gave credit to the team opening up Dodger Stadium as a site for COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and becoming the first team to make its facility available for voting.
“Not only did Dodger Stadium host world champions,” Biden said, “it helped save lives and strengthen our democracy as well.”
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, the only player to speak, expressed nervousness about addressing the president during his first trip to the White House.
“It’s an honor to be here and celebrate our World Series victory at the White House,” Kershaw said. “Last season was a special one for us, but also a challenging one for our country, and our hope was we were able to provide a little bit of hope and belief to our fans who were going through some tough times.
“Hopefully, we can come visit you again next year.”
Dodgers team owner Mark Walter presented Biden with a Dodgers jersey with his name and the No. 46, and moments later Roberts presented Vice President Harris with a Dodgers jersey with her name and the No. 49.
“Madam vice president, this is your jersey,” Roberts said as he presented the jersey before posing for photos with Harris. “That blue looks very good on you.”
As the ceremony closed, Biden called Harris to the podium as he spoke about the diverse makeup of the team.
“It means a lot to us that you’re here,” Biden said. “And it means a lot to the hope you give to the American people. Don’t underestimate it, guys, don’t underestimate it.”