By G. Michael Dobbs
Lesser with Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes in the vestibule of the White House.
Reminder Publications submitted photos
LONGMEADOW – No matter that Eric Lesser used to work in the White House, speaking with him it’s clear that his invitation to come back for the visit of the Red Sox was a thrill.
He told Reminder Publications that talking with Koji Uehara of the Red Sox while the player ate a canapé standing near a portrait of Abraham Lincoln was a bit “surreal.”
Lesser, who is running for state Senate seat currently held by Gale Candaras, worked on the president’s 2008 campaign. He explained he started volunteering in political campaigns in 2007 when he worked for Gov. Deval Patrick. He became involved in President Barak Obama’s campaign “early on.”
“I was along for the ride,” he said.
He was hired to make sure the luggage of the then senator and other key campaign officials was never lost as the group visited almost all of the 50 states.
“I never once a lost a bag,” he said with a laugh.
Lesser, a graduate of Harvard University, was recognized for other talents and worked for two years as Senior Advisor David Axelrod’s assistant – a “jack of all trades” position. He noted he was just “40 feet from the Oval Office.”
He followed that job with a position at the Council of Economic Advisors.
“I know the president, know him personally and he knows I’m from Western Massachusetts,” Lesser said. He added that he “booked my flight the moment I got the invitation.”
It’s been a presidential tradition for decades for winning sports teams and other athletes to be invited to the White House.
Lesser described himself as a “baseball fan” and said what made part of the visit so meaningful for him was that the Red Sox went from practically last place to winning the World Series.
Referring to the aftermath of the last year’s terrorist bombing at the Boston marathon, Lesser said of the team, “They also helped sports back up after a dark period.”
Lesser described the actual event at the White House as “not very long.” A riser was assembled on the South Lawn and the teams came out to stand on it accompanied by Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” Lesser was sitting in the audience with many of the players’ wives.
He said that Jonny Gomes’ flag suit caught everyone’s eye.
He said the president came out and made some brief remarks. Then came the moment in which David Ortiz supposed to present Obama with a Red Sox jersey with his name and the number 44 on it. Ortiz then did what Lesser said made “everyone’s jaws drop:” the ball player asked for a selfie and took out his cell phone.
When it was revealed that Ortiz had a contract with Samsung and that Samsung retweeted the photo to note the phone was the company’s Galaxy Note 3, White House officials began discussing this could be the last selfie for which the president would pose, according to Lindsey Bever, writing on www.thewashingtonpost.com.
Lesser said the guests came into the White House for a private reception and were joined briefly by the president and Vice President Joseph Biden. After the reception, the Red Sox toured Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Lesser said he was not able to speak with the president, who did wave hello to him at the reception, but thinks he will have a conversation when he attends a Passover Seder at the White House in several weeks.
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