BOSTON – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park before the Boston Red Sox took on the Miami Marlins on Saturday, May 29, the Red Sox said in a press release.
“Batter Up! So exciting to be able to throw the first pitch at a Red Sox game! As more people become fully vaccinated against #COVID19, I’m looking forward to all of us making memories safely with our loved ones. Now, play ball!” Walensky tweeted that day.
It was fitting that Walensky, who is Jewish, was born in Peabody and lives in Newton, toss out the first pitch, as the game marked the lifting of restrictions and capacity limitations in the Bay State and at Fenway Park. This allowed Fenway to operate at full capacity.
This was a home game for Walensky. Before being selected by then President-elect Joe Biden to be the CDC’s 19th director, she served as the chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital from 2017 to 2020, and as Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School from 2012 to 2020.
“She served on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic and conducted research on vaccine delivery and strategies to reach underserved communities,” the Red Sox said. Also, masks were no longer required for fully vaccinated fans at Fenway Park starting on May 29, following current CDC guidelines. Unvaccinated fans were encouraged to continue to wear a mask. Fenway Park also did away with a health survey that had been a requirement before entering the ballpark this season.
“I began my medical career at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, and I’ve spent my life ever since working to research, treat, and combat infectious diseases. I’m honored to be called to lead the brilliant team at the CDC. We are ready to combat this virus with science and facts,” Walensky said in a statement on Twitter shortly after she was selected by the incoming Biden administration.
Walensky was born in Peabody, and grew up in Maryland. She received her bachelor of arts degree from Washington University in St. Louis, her MD from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and her master’s in public health from the Harvard School of Public Health.
Walensky told the Journal in April 2020 at the start of the pandemic she found a measure of comfort in her synagogue, Temple Emanuel of Newton. “I said to them, the last time I spoke with them, ‘I’m thinking I need you more than you need me. I have a sense it’s getting emotionally pretty hard. I certainly have everybody’s cell phone number … I may need to use it in the weeks ahead.”
Walensky is married to Dr. Loren Walensky, and the couple have three sons.
“The face of joy and relief for all of the COVID progress – and for the pitch hitting the target!” tweeted her husband after she threw a no-bouncer to the catcher.