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06/19/09 9:00 PM EST

Obama unable to throw out first pitch

President's presence to be felt during Civil Rights Game

CINCINNATI -- President Barack Obama was unable to accept Major League Baseball's invitation to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in the third annual Civil Rights Game on Saturday night between his beloved White Sox and the Reds, but his presence still will be felt during the festivities at Great American Ball Park.

Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, who spent his first 10 Major League seasons with the Reds and has a statue of himself right out front, will throw out the first pitch instead. The election controversy in Iran this week officially nixed the First Fan's first throw.

"North Korean and Iran have changed that original game plan, but you'll still hear his voice," said Charles Ogletree, moderator of Friday's Civil Rights Game roundtable discussion and Harvard Law School professor whose past pupils included Obama and wife Michelle.

"Oh, yeah, he was disappointed that he couldn't make it. He loves baseball. He loves the White Sox. He's been educated in the northeast, but his heart is always with Chicago.

"He couldn't come because of issues of national security, and specifically this issue of Iran's elections and the testing of nuclear weapons by North Korea."

Obama was not able to throw out a first pitch for his new hometown Washington Nationals yet this season, nor was he able to accept an invite from the White Sox to do so for their home opener or any subsequent game -- as he had done for them once before during the early campaigning days. There are countless connections between baseball and the Oval Office -- Reds manager Dusty Baker got to know Obama while managing the Cubs and was planning to appeal as well -- but priorities are priorities.

"We understand he obviously has a very busy schedule," said Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations. "It's no surprise that he has some priorities that mean this is not at the top of his list. But I think we have a pretty nice backup."

The Civil Rights Game is expected to be at or near sellout. It will be streamed live on MLB.TV, and it will feature a Fox Sports Ohio broadcast feed that will include fewer commercials and more after-inning segments pertaining to civil rights history.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.