BOSTON U.S. President Barack Obama has steered clear of Wednesday's matchup between the Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals in game six of the World Series during his visit to Boston, partly to avoid being an extra burden on a baseball-mad city.
Obama visited Boston to discuss his landmark health insurance law at a time Boston authorities are stretched thin with preparations for a game that gives the Red Sox a chance to win the championship at home for first time in 95 years.
"I am well aware that a presidential visit is not the biggest thing going on today in Boston," Obama told a crowd at the city's historic Fanueil Hall, two-and-a-half miles from Fenway Park, where the game will be played.
Obama joked that he had considered growing a beard like the members of the Red Sox had for the series, "but Michelle, she wasn't having it," in reference to the first lady.
Boston city officials said they have ramped up security for the game and have been in touch with the White House over the logistics of Obama's visit. Streets around the ballpark will be closed to traffic and an extra-heavy police presence is expected if the Red Sox, who hold a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, clinch a victory.
If the Cardinals win on Wednesday, the teams will face off in game seven on Thursday.
White House officials said they had been aware that a presidential visit to the ballpark would have strained resources.
"The president is regularly mindful of the impact that his presence can have on the ability of other people to go about their lives," Josh Earnest, White House deputy press secretary, told reporters on Air Force One en route to Boston, adding Obama likely had plans to watch the game on television.
Some in Boston had complained that Obama's visit to the city, for a memorial ceremony three days after the April 15 bombing attack at the Boston Marathon came at a time when police resources were stretched thin.
Boston Mayor Tom Menino offered Obama a chance to root for the Red Sox by pulling out two team ball caps. Menino put one on his head but Obama, who roots for teams from his home state of Illinois, left his off.
This year's World Series has special significance for Boston Red Sox players and baseball fans, coming a little more than six months after the city was rocked by twin bombs that killed three and injured 264 at the marathon.
(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Scott Malone and Leslie Gevirtz)