His feet blistered inside his new shoes and he didn't get to speak his mind at the White House, but Jose Rijo was all smiles nonetheless.
The World Series' most valuable player and the rest of the Cincinnati Reds had just been toasted by members of Congress at a Capitol Hill luncheon in their honor, saluted by President Bush at a Rose Garden ceremony and treated to a private tour of the White House."What a month. I've never had so much excitement in my life," Rijo told reporters on the White House lawn Tuesday. "Who could ask for anything more?"
Rijo didn't ask, but he wanted one thing more - a private chat with the president.
"I'm disappointed. I didn't get a chance," he said. "I was waiting for my chance. I wanted to talk to him face to face and tell him not to raise my taxes."
Rijo won two of the four World Series games and complied an earned run average of 0.59 as the Reds swept the Oakland Athletics. He was one of the players Bush singled out for special mention.
"Maybe you can help us with the interest rates," Bush told Rijo. "You got the ERA down; now it's the interest rates."
Bush also complimented outfielder Eric Davis for his strong hitting and for stopping Pittsburgh's Bobby Bonilla attempt to stretch a double into a triple in the fourth game of the National League playoffs.
"I hope our guided missiles are as straight as Eric Davis' throw to nab Bobby Bonilla," Bush said.
Later, he added, "When I talk to Mr. Gorbachev about offensive weapons, I'm going to tell him No. 44's bat is not negotiable."
Davis, who suffered a kidney injury in the final game of the series, didn't make the trip - to the great disappointment of some young fans who brought his rookie card to the White House in hopes of snaring a signature.
Kevin Dill of Youngstown, Ohio, brought a pocketful of Barry Larkin baseball cards and got to talk to some of his favorite Reds.
"Barry Larkin was the nicest. He asked where we were from. (Others) didn't talk at all."
"The best part was meeting the team," said Morris Henson, 12, of Oakland, Calif., hometown of the A's. "I liked Larkin the best because he's an infielder. I didn't meet the president."
Both boys played on Babe Ruth Baseball League championship teams and were included in the ceremony to mark the league's 40th anniversary.
While the boys were impressed with the players, the players were impressed with the president and the White House.
"It was exciting," Reds outfielder Paul O'Neill said of the meeting with Bush. "He knew a lot of us by name and shook our hands."