July 20 (UPI) -- Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States' top infectious diseases expert, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Thursday night's opener between the reigning World Series champion Washington Nationals and New York Yankees.
The Nationals will play host to the Yankees to begin the shortened 2020 season, which was reduced from 162 games to 60 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"Dr. Fauci has been a true champion for our country during the COVID-19 pandemic and throughout his distinguished career, so it is only fitting that we honor him as we kick off the 2020 season and defend our World Series championship title," the Nationals said in a statement Monday.
Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force. He has been one of the nation's most visible public health experts throughout the ongoing pandemic.
Fauci, 79, also is an outspoken fan of the Nationals -- often wearing a face mask with the team's logo. When MLB's season was suspended, he spoke of wanting to see the club play again, even if it meant games taking place without fans in attendance.
"I think you'll probably get enough buy-in from people who are dying to see a baseball game, particularly me," Fauci said in April. "I'm living in Washington, we have the world champion Washington Nationals. I want to see them play again."