Jim Watson, Getty Images
Roberto Clemente Jr., top, watches as President Bush gives a signed baseball to Xavier Garcia at the White House on Monday.

WASHINGTON — Not every day at the White House is momentous. Some just have their moments.

Here was President Bush in shirt sleeves, sweat-soaked, out on a summer's day, doing one of his favorite things as leader of the country.

Hosting Tee Ball.

"Opening Day, 2008," Bush proclaimed on the bottom of the South Lawn, delighting kids in bright uniforms and adults packed into makeshift bleachers.

The backyard of the White House is still Bush's turf. If he wants to turn it into a mini-ballfield for a while, who's going to stop him?

The rain threatened, then passed, so the fun and the photo-op prevailed in sunshine.

Throw in a little bit of baseball, the innocence of children playing the game, the adoration of guests who can't get over the wonder of the place.

Talk about an afternoon that's teed up for the president.

Out here in the grass, there's no talk of Bush's record-low approval ratings, or depressing gas prices, or nuclear showdowns with Iran. Bush had signed a bill just hours earlier to keep two wars running for the rest of his term and beyond. Somehow, it no longer even feels like the same day.

Such is the nature of the presidency that Bush can shift from war to peace in one day.

This is not one of those feel-good traditions that Bush inherited and dutifully kept going, like pardoning an enormous turkey come Thanksgiving time.

Bush wanted and started this one in 2001. Teams come by each summer in recognition of teamwork, youthful spirit and Bush's favorite sport, baseball.

When the Red Sox of Camden, N.J., played the Angels from Manati, Puerto Rico on Monday, it was the 18th Tee Ball game of Bush's tenure.

The one on Monday honored the contribution of the Latino community to baseball; games 19 and 20 are still to come this summer.

"Before we get started, I do want the players to join me in the Little League Pledge," Bush said. "Are you ready?"

Bush read the words about trusting God, loving the country, respecting the law, doing one's best. Then he added two more: "Play ball!"

The baselines were painted in white on the field. A portable yellow-rimmed fence was erected on the fringe of the outfield, although the ball rarely got that far.

Most of these kids are 5 years old, some younger, some older. They hit, they run, they smile. They play in helmets that seem much bigger than their heads.

Sure, mistakes are made. But here, they never count.

One poor boy took a ball in the face, enough of a whack to bloody him. But he would later return in fine shape.

The president was in the third row of the stands. He held toddlers in his lap, signed autographs and posed for pictures. He was in his element.

The game ends only when every player from both teams gets a turn at bat. The rule is that no one keeps score, so there's no way to lose.

As the announcer put it at the start of the game, "Everyone leaves here as winners today."

Especially the president.