It is a political rite of spring: the Mayor of New York City throws out a ceremonial first pitch and gets booed for his trouble.
Bill de Blasio took his turn on the mound for the first time Monday at Citi Field, donning a customized Mets jersey with his name on the back and smiled through the jeers as he took his place at the bottom of the pitcher's mound.
He reared back and lobbed the ball over the plate to the waiting catcher. The apparent strike turned some of the boos into mild applause.
De Blasio said before he took the mound that he would not be upset if heard boos.
"I'm a sports fan and I think sports fans have a right to express themselves any way they want," he said.
The mayor, a serious sports fan, seemed to relish the opportunity to take the field on Opening Day, one of the city's great unofficial holidays. He peppered his remarks on pre-kindergarten funding with jokes about baseball stats and revealed that he been practicing by playing catch with his son and aides at an athletic complex near his Brooklyn home.
"I was at the Park Slope Armory last night, working on my knuckle curveball," he joked. "I look forward to debuting it today."
Some of the boos may not been sparked by a disagreement over politics, but rather baseball allegiances. De Blasio grew up in Massachusetts and is an avid fan of the Boston Red Sox, the archrivals of New York's other team, the Yankees.
The mayor can speak knowledgably about the Red Sox and was gripped by the squad's run to the World Series title last fall, even though it fell in the final weeks of the mayoral campaign, his aides have said. And he would surprise staffers by revealing that he would stay up well after midnight to catch the ends of games even if he had campaign events early the next morning.
Despite governing a city where it's not politically popular, he often wears his Red Sox fandom on his sleeve — or, in the case of Monday, on his back. He sported a No. 6 on his customized Mets jersey to honor Rico Petrocelli, who played shortstop for the Red Sox in the 1960s and 70s. Like de Blasio, Petrocelli was descended from Italian immigrants and lived in Brooklyn.
Despite his personal feelings, de Blasio said Monday he would love to throw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium if asked. An invitation has not yet been forthcoming.