Bush talks to Waseda about his life — in world of sports

by Malcolm Foster

The Associated Press

Exactly a year after Barack Obama was voted in as president, his successor, George W. Bush, talked in Japan on Wednesday about his former life — in sports.

Bush, a former part-owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, offered no assessment of the choices facing Obama on Afghanistan, climate change or the economy.

Instead, he dished out advice to Japanese university students about running a sports franchise.

“Now I’m retired, so I’m glad to be talking about sports,” Bush told an auditorium full of students and staff at Waseda University for a special sports science class.

Bush was generally unpopular in Japan during his time as president because of opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq, but you wouldn’t know it from the warm reception he received at Waseda.

A cheerleading team performed stunts for him on stage — spelling his name with their pompoms — and attendees reached out to shake his hand.

During his brief speech, Bush outlined key points for developing a successful franchise.

Make sure the stadium has a pleasant environment. Select “good baseball people” to make key decisions about hiring — and firing — players. Treat the media “as an ally, not an antagonist.”

But the best marketing is winning, he said.

“Problem is, it’s not that easy,” the two-term former president said. Plenty of fans yelled at him when the Rangers were doing poorly, he said. “That’s part of sports. I never took it personally.”

Bush also said it was important to take responsibility for decisions, including bad ones — and referred to what he has acknowledged was one of his biggest mistakes with the Rangers: approving the 1989 trade that sent future home-run slugger Sammy Sosa to the Chicago White Sox for designated hitter Harold Baines.

“I am the person who agreed with the trade,” he said.

Five preselected students asked Bush questions — all related to sports. No questions about politics or an evaluation of Obama, who was elected Nov. 4, 2008, were raised.

A day earlier, Bush got a bit chillier reception from protesters outside the Tokyo Dome, where he threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 3 of the Japan Series between the Yomiuri Giants and Nippon Ham Fighters. Dozens of demonstrators marched outside the stadium carrying signs saying, “Arrest Bush” and “The King of War.”

Inside the stadium, Bush was impressed with the organized chanting by Japanese fans during Tuesday night’s game.

“I found that to be a lot of fun,” he said. “If fans have fun, they’ll keep coming back.”