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Ryan Zimmerman interviews Anthony Fauci about baseball’s return, Brad Pitt and the Nats

Fauci is hopeful that the visit will come sooner. He told Zimmerman there is “a pathway” to playing games this season, but it will depend on whether there are no additional major outbreaks and the ability to effectively identify, isolate and contact trace going forward. Fauci said he could envision multiple scenarios for baseball’s return, from players getting tested and playing games in isolation to limiting the number of spectators in the ballpark and spacing them out in the stands.

“I hope that there’s some form of baseball this summer, even if it’s just for TV,” Fauci said. “I feel that strongly, one, because I’m an avid baseball fan but also because it’s for the country’s mental health to have the great American pastime be seen.”

While mitigation efforts have helped limit the spread of the coronavirus, Fauci cautioned that “we’re not ready to just jump back into normality by any means.” The District, Maryland and Virginia on Wednesday reported 106 new deaths and 1,471 new infections, bringing the number of coronavirus cases in the area past 39,000 and total deaths to 1,818.

“My message to my fellow Washingtonians is we’re doing a really good job of preventing this from exploding by doing the mitigation of physical separation,” said Fauci, who has lived in the District for the past 50 years. “We need to keep it up a big longer, and when we return to normal, we can’t just turn the light switch on and go right back. It’s going to be a gradual process, a stepwise process.”

Fauci told Zimmerman that he has been a fan of his since the Nationals drafted him in 2005 out of the University of Virginia, and while Fauci was a New York Yankees fan as a kid growing up in Brooklyn, the Nationals are now No. 1 in his heart.

“I’m not saying that because I’m talking to you,” he said. “I love the Nats. I love everybody on the Nats. … I think the character of the Washington Nationals is such that this year is historic. Really historic. You can’t savor it any more than having a team that came back, and at the end, I’ve never been in a situation before where when we were behind, I absolutely knew we were going to win.”

“You almost felt better when were losing than we were winning,” said Zimmerman, who this month launched a relief fund to benefit workers at Inova Health facilities across Northern Virginia.

During the rapid-fire portion of the interview, which was arranged as part of the Nationals’ Home and Away community initiative to provide free learning resources for children, Fauci revealed that his favorite Racing President is “absolutely Teddy Roosevelt” and the greatest player he ever saw was Joe DiMaggio. If he were the Nationals’ manager and had every pitcher available, he would start Max Scherzer in a Game 7 of the World Series over Stephen Strasburg.

“I don’t want to insult anybody, but it would have to be Max,” he said. “Stras is great, and he’s as good as anybody, but there’s just something about Max. You got to love the guy. The guy’s a superstar, and he runs around like he’s a kid.”

“He got my gravelly voice from speaking too much,” said Fauci, who has never met the actor. “He got my hand motions right, but he’s got to work on his Brooklyn accent a little bit better I think.”

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