Obama hosts world champion Phillies

President Obama had the World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies over to his place today for a chat and a photo-op and told the team they had something in common: "Nobody thought I was going to win either."

"Congratulations not only for a great season but for doing it the right way," said Obama. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins then presented the president with an autographed baseball and a Phillies jersey with "Obama 44" on the back, prompting Obama to quip, "Can I have your ring, too?" referring to the player's massive, jewel-encrusted championship ring.

Obama also thanked Rollins for his support during the presidential campaign. Rollins spoke on the stump for Obama and recorded robocalls to Pennsylvania voters down the stretch. "I couldn't be more grateful to him for that," Obama said. Obama returned the favor by rooting for them during the playoffs.

Vice President Biden, who was raised in Phillies country, was out town but David Plouffe, huge Phils fan and Obama's campaign manager, was there with his family.

Lawmakers in attendance include Pennsylvania Sens. Arlen Specter (D) and Bob Casey Jr. (D) along with Reps. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) and Mike Castle (R-Del.). Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), whose wife, Lucy Calautti, is a lobbyist for Major League Baseball was also there. Absent was Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), a Hall of Fame pitcher who played for the Phillies for several years, tossed a no-hitter for the team, and had his number retired a few years back.

"It's inspirational to see the Phillies here at the White House," Specter said afterward, adding that "nothing compares to the thrill" of this particular visit to the White House of all the times he'd been there. "It's exhilarating." Castle, who's old friends with one of the families that owns the team and once went to their training camp, said, "It's very exciting for me. I've been a Phillies fan for a long time."

Obama made a few special shout-outs to the players during his remarks. He singled out center fielder Shane Victorino, a fellow Hawaiian, and said that Rollins and first baseman Ryan Howard, both former Most Valuable Players, were good role models for African American kids.

The president also recognized two sadder events surrounding the Phillies championship season. Obama opened his remarks by noting that the team had to postpone their originally scheduled White House visit to mourn the death of longtime broadcaster Harry Kalas on April 13.

Obama also shared a personal moment with Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, whose mother died during the postseason last year. "I know how tough that is. I lost my grandmother in the middle of my election. And, Charlie, I admired your perseverance during those trying times. I know how hard that must have been on you," Obama said.

- Jeffrey Young