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Pirates tour White House, enjoy D.C. sites

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

WASHINGTON -- As he makes his rookie tour of the major leagues, Pirates reliever Donnie Veal isn't afraid to act like a tourist.

"Some cities have got a lot more going than others," Veal said. "For example, Milwaukee vs. (Washington) D.C. or New York. I try to see all the sights. If that makes me a tourist, well, I guess I am."

On Wednesday, Veal was among 35 Pirates players, coaches and staff members who got a private tour of the White House. The group didn't get to meet President Barack Obama, who was busy with official business, but it did explore some of the nooks and crannies of the historic residence.

"It was a pretty cool experience," reliever John Grabow said. "We got to see some of the different rooms -- the Green Room, the Red Room, the Blue Room. We went into the presidential library."

Nobody tried to drift away from the group for a self-guided tour.

"If they did, they would've wound up in a choke hold," Grabow said. "It's like an armed fortress. I tapped on the windows, and they're like three inches thick."

The Pirates weren't permitted inside the Oval Office, but they did get a peek at Obama's private movie theater. They also got a rundown on the priceless portraits and sculptures that adorn the building.

"There's a lot of history there," said Veal, who described himself as apolitical. "That was cool. It's one of those places you want to see at least once in your life."

Not everyone wanted to make the trip.

Instead of heading over to Pennsylvania Avenue, left fielder Nyjer Morgan went to the state of Pennsylvania. He drove to Philadelphia and visited his grandfather.

"I brought back a cheesesteak," said Morgan, adding that he toured the White House a couple of years ago. First-base coach Perry Hill also skipped the tour.

"I'm a George (W. Bush) man," Hill said. "He was president of the team when I was with the Texas Rangers. You'd see him in the clubhouse, hanging out with the guys. Two years later, he was governor of Texas."

Hill got to shake Bush's hand at the White House when the Florida Marlins visited after winning the 2003 World Series. Hill was the Marlins' first-base coach from 2002-06.

Today, the Steelers will meet Obama at the White House -- one of the spoils of winning Super Bowl XLIII. Last week, the World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies hung out with Obama.

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