People.com Entertainment Sports Dr. Anthony Fauci to Throw Out First Pitch at Opening Game of Shortened MLB Season "Dr. Fauci has been a true champion for our country during the COVID-19 pandemic and throughout his distinguished career, so it is only fitting that we honor him" the Washington Nationals said By Gabrielle Chung Published on July 20, 2020 10:53 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Dr. Anthony Fauci. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious disease expert and one of the longest serving federal health officials in the United States, will be throwing the first pitch on Major League Baseball's opening day. The Washington Nationals made the announcement on Monday, saying in a statement that they are "thrilled" to have the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 79, throw the ceremonial pitch. "Dr. Fauci has been a true champion for our country during the COVID-19 pandemic and throughout his distinguished career, so it is only fitting that we honor him as we kick off the 2020 season and defend our World Series championship title," the team's statement read. The Nationals will play the New York Yankees on Thursday as the kick-off for a shorten MLB season due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. MLB Player Clint Frazier Explains Why He’s Wearing a Mask on the Field: ‘Trying to Be Respectful’ The MLB announced its decision to delay its season opener in March when the league postponed spring training. At the time, the organization said the postponement done "in the interests of the safety and well-being of our players, Clubs and our millions of loyal fans." In June, Fauci recommended that the MLB season take place only within the summer months out of concern for the novel coronavirus. "If the question is time, I would try to keep it in the core summer months and end it not with the way we play the World Series, until the end of October when it’s cold,” said in an interview with The Los Angeles Times. “I would avoid that.” “Even in warm weather, like in Arizona and California, we’re starting to see resurgences as we open up,” Fauci explained at the time. “But I think the chances of there being less of an issue in the end of July and all of August and September are much, much better than if you go into October." “The likelihood is that, if you stick to the core summer months, you are better off, even though there is no guarantee," he added. "If you look at the kinds of things that could happen, there’s no guarantee of anything. You would want to do it at a time when there isn’t the overlap between influenza and the possibility of a fall second wave.” Dr. Anthony Fauci. MANDEL NGAN/Getty Images All the MLB Players Who Have Tested Positive for Coronavirus Ahead of Shortened Season The MLB later unveiled its 2020 schedule, proposing a 60-game season with the regular season ending in September and postseason to end by October. Players and coaches participating in the season will be tested for coronavirus every other day, according to The New York Times. Non-players will reportedly be required to wear masks in the dugout and the bullpen, and players will not be allowed to spit, eat sunflower seeds or use smokeless tobacco. So far, several MLB players have already opted to sit out the season over health concerns, including Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher David Price, San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey, and Colorado Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond. As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.