The nation has mourned the last week since the death of George H.W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States.
The news was bittersweet for members of the 1989 Wichita State baseball team that met President Bush at the White House following the Shockers’ 68-win season capped by a victory over Texas in the College World Series.
Brent Kemnitz, WSU’s pitching coach for 38 seasons before retiring in 2016, said he received several texts from former players in the past week recalling old memories from the team’s trip to Washington D.C. that summer.
“It’s a touching moment for everybody, but it immediately brings back the 1989 memories,” Kemnitz said. “I’ve had a lot of dialogue with people who were on the 1989 team because it does bring back fond memories for us, especially with George Bush. He was a great president, but an even better human being. It was one of those deals that just sticks with you.”
Kemnitz remembers being awe-struck when meeting with President Bush and the First Lady, Barbara Bush.
“He was very real, very down to Earth,” Kemnitz said. “I got the chance to actually visit with him very briefly and shake hands with Barbara Bush, who was about as nice and as sweet as she could possibly be. They just seemed like normal American, good-quality people. It was just that he was the President of the United States.”
The ceremony was held at the White House Rose Garden, where President Bush played catch with WSU star catcher Eric Wedge.
“I remembered joking, ‘Hey, this guy has pretty good arm action,’” Kemnitz recalled. “Left-handed, played baseball at Yale. He had a pretty good pulse for baseball.
“It’s one of those euphoric moments that will stick with you forever.”