WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Dallas Keuchel’s new suit arrived not a moment too soon.
Now the ace pitcher has the proper attire to wear when visiting the most famous residence in the country.
Keuchel and his World Series champion Houston teammates will leave their spring training home Monday morning to visit the White House.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Keuchel said. “I got a new suit. Also gained some pounds, so my old suits didn’t fit.”
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It’s customary for the president of the United States to invite champions from many sports to visit the White House. Houston is taking advantage of an off-day in its Grapefruit League schedule to accept the invitation from President Donald Trump.
The tentative schedule has the Astros leaving West Palm Beach early in the morning, arriving at the White House around noon and returning to South Florida later that evening.
“If you’re going to spend an off-day doing something, other than relaxing, I think the White House is a pretty good gig,” Keuchel said.
Keuchel wasn’t the only Astro scrambling to complete his White House wardrobe.
“I didn’t bring any ties with me out here, so I’ve got to go buy a tie,” reliever Will Harris said.
Last year, the 2016 World Series champion Chicago Cubs actually visited the White House twice, the first time meeting with outgoing President Barack Obama, then a few months later with Trump.
Making a special trip during spring training is rare for a World Series champion.
Teams often elect to visit the White House in conjunction with a scheduled series at either the Washington Nationals or Baltimore Orioles. The Astros don’t visit Washington this season and the Astros’ trip to Baltimore doesn’t happen until the final weekend of the season.
“That would have been odd for us to wait all the way until that time to celebrate a team that’s another year older,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “I’ll take this day over the other options.”
Hinch said he doesn’t mind turning what could have been a restful off day into what will likely be a somewhat hectic travel day.
“I like it better as a day off in spring than I do a day off in the season,” Hinch said. “Those are valuable. We’re already on the east coast so that makes it convenient enough.”
Houston officials said they anticipate all holdovers from last year’s team will make the trip.
The Astros also invited players who left the team during the offseason to accompany the excursion. St. Louis closer Luke Gregerson and Pittsburgh pitcher Joe Musgrove are expected to join their former teammates.
“It will be cool to see some of the guys that were with the team last year that aren’t with us anymore,” Harris said. “Looking forward to having a plane ride with those guys, catching up and kind of reminiscing on what we accomplished last year for a few hours. It will be a good time.”
Carlos Beltran, who won a World Series ring with the Astros in his final season, said last month that he wouldn’t attend the ceremony for family reasons. He said his decision wasn’t a political statement, and added he wasn’t happy with the federal government’s response to the devastation Hurricane Maria caused in his native Puerto Rico.
Outfielder Cameron Maybin played 21 games with Houston after being claimed off waivers late in the season.
He signed with the Miami Marlins after 2018 camp opened and declined the invitation to travel to the White House.
“I know we’ve got an off-day, but I’ll probably come in and just get some work in. Just trying to still get my timing together,” Maybin said. “For me, the mission was accomplished.”