Mandel Ngan, Getty Images
President Bush, first lady Laura Bush, left, and daughter Barbara attend the Beijing Olympics men's 200m freestyle semifinals Sunday.

Halfway around the world, President Bush managed to cap his Olympic experience at a place he calls home: a baseball field.

Bush listens to baseball games like background music at the White House, a sound that puts him at ease. And so in Beijing, comfortably keeping an eye on a baseball game, Bush reflected on an Olympics experience that was extraordinary even by presidential standards.

"It's exceeded my expectations," Bush told The Associated Press in an interview Monday before returning to Washington. He meant the whole deal: the venues, the people, the pride.

Never before had a U.S. president taken part in an Olympics on foreign land. Bush came and soaked it in for four days.

He managed to do what he promised he would — take in a whole lot of sports — while dealing with Russia's violent crackdown on Georgia and carefully confronting China's repression of human freedoms.

At the Olympic baseball stadium, Bush was in the mood to talk sports, not policy. He had just spent time mingling with the Chinese and U.S. baseball teams, and now they were lacing line drives across one of Beijing's pristine Olympic venues.

The president was in his element.

"I think the highlight was getting my picture taken with the teams," Bush said, referring to a moment he had with the whole U.S. Olympic contingent.