01/20/09 4:16 PM EST
Sox official gets close view of First Fan
Reifert connected to Obamas through 8-year-old daughter
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
She is "best friends forever" with Sasha, Obama's youngest daughter, and Reifert said that is why they were there. Also in attendance from Obama's favorite team was Kenny Williams, general manager of the White Sox.
Reifert called MLB.com during the inaugural parade and said it was "something you won't forget for the rest of your life."
"What a day," Reifert said. "Through my daughter, we know the family personally, and to stand there today and have my kids recognize -- they hear a lot that you can be anything you want to be and do anything you want to do, but to have your best friend's dad up there taking office, what better lesson?
"We were within six yards of the Capitol steps on a beautiful day. To turn around behind us, and see a million people or whatever they are calling it, that's kind of what stuck with me. As he was giving the speech, he was pausing and you'd hear the response from the people all the way down the Mall -- you would hear this reverberate all the way down the Mall and all the way back. The only other time I've been in a crowd like that was the  World Series championship parade. There you had nearly 2 million people. It's a little different in that it was strung all over the parade route, whereas here it was all in the Capitol's Mall.
"What a great thing to celebrate a White Sox fan being the First Fan. We've got our mascot in the parade. I arranged for Southpaw to ride in I think the 16th float -- they wanted the mascot. I think there's a pride in being a Sox fan and such a sense of pride in who we are -- not only seeing a fan in the White House wearing a Sox cap as he does, but also how he embraces that. You could tell from the Cubs questions over the last summer. I say this about every Chicagoan: They tell you what neighborhood they're from, and usually within the first two or three sentences they'll tell you whether they're a Cub or White Sox fan. It's pretty neat."
Reifert said he is a "right Republican, but I don't care what you are. There's such a pride as an American with that exchange of power. ... To see it today and feel it, that's the thing. An inauguration is like an NFL football game where it's better to see it on TV, but to be there and feel the electricity of the crowd, is just unmatched. I told my kids, 'This is something you won't forget the rest of your life.'"
As for whether Obama might throw out a ceremonial first pitch on April 6 -- Opening Day for the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field -- Reifert said "that may not happen" but added that the club is hopeful and has reached out in various ways to the White House. It also remains to be seen whether Obama might throw a ceremonial first pitch to open the Nationals' season, following in tradition of sitting U.S. presidents for Washington games.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.