Congressional Baseball Game Set for June 29

Posted February 5, 2010 at 4:04pm

Democrats and Republicans have been ceaselessly swinging at one another from across the aisle this past year. But on June 29, Members will take the partisan feud from the Dome to the diamond once again for the 49th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game.

Pending the date’s final approval from Congressional leadership, the donkeys will again take on the elephants at Nationals Park in what looks to be a spirited game to raise money for the Washington Literacy Council and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.

Last year, the Democrats broke an eight-year losing streak, winning 15-10 to steal the coveted Roll Call trophy. As the dust settled, they were already talking dynasty.

“We kicked their ass last year,” said Rep. Mike Doyle (Pa.), the Democrats’ captain, adding that he’s confident they’ll repeat this year to pull out just the 16th Democratic win in the game’s 49-year history.

He said the GOP modern-era conquest started after the 1994 elections, when the Republicans brought in a class of young lawmakers. But in 2008, Doyle said, things went the Democrats’ way on the recruiting front.

“We’re feeling good about our team. It’s a much younger team,” he said. “It’s nice to have some 30-somethings on the team that can play ball.”

Three freshmen will return to the starting lineup, Doyle said, bringing some much needed young blood onto the field: Reps. Frank Kratovil (Md.), Mark Schauer (Mich.) and John Boccieri (Ohio).

But four-time all star Rep. Joe Baca (Calif.), at 62 years old, will be back as the team’s starting pitcher. Last year’s MVP, Baca led the Democrats with an MVP performance, striking out five, walking four and allowing nine earned runs on 119 pitches in the game’s seven innings.

“He’s clearly our best veteran player,” said Doyle. “The guy still brings a nice fastball and a good curve and he mixes it around.”

But not so fast, said Republican skipper Rep. Joe Barton (Texas). He acknowledged the GOP squad may be a little bit older this year, but he said they still have a shot.

“Mike Doyle will have you think that we shouldn’t even show up, but I’ll probably get a ragtag group of Republicans to show up and contest on the diamond,” he said. “Given how the Democrats have done on health care and cap-and-trade, we’ll do pretty good.”

Last year, Barton benched starting GOP pitcher Rep. John Shimkus (Ill.) — who had thrown 75 strikes out of 122 pitches for six strikeouts and four walks — in favor of relief pitching from Rep. Adam Putnam (Fla.). The move, Barton conceded, likely lost them the game.

“I chalk last year’s defeat up not to the players on the field but on the manager in the dugout,” he said. “Hopefully I got that out of my system and I can go back to being my usual brilliant managerial talent.”

Barton said he can give the Democrats a fight if he can retain some of his veterans, such as Rep. Zach Wamp (Tenn.), who last year announced his retirement from baseball (and the House) in favor of a gubernatorial bid. But just in case, Barton quipped, he’s got a little trick up his sleeve: “[Defense] Sec. [Robert] Gates owes me a favor,” he said. “We’re going to see if he can reinstitute the draft just for Democratic baseball players, send them down to help the relief effort in Haiti sometime in the middle of May and stay until sometime in August.”

But if that doesn’t work, Barton said, he may head to the office of newly minted athletic Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.) to see if he wants to take a few swings.

“If he’s got some baseball ability, we’d love to have him,” Barton said. “Maybe get President [Barack] Obama to pinch hit for [the Democrats] and get Sen. Brown to pitch to him.”

Doyle, on the other hand, said he won’t be walking to the other chamber to recruit for his House-heavy team.

“By the time you make it to the Senate, you’re so old and crotchety anyway,” he said. “These guys need to pass some legislation before they play baseball.”

But both captains said the game is really all about raising money for charity. And, they said, it has an auxiliary benefit of making friends of feuding partisans.

“It’s really done a lot to build friendships across the aisle,” said Doyle, who’s jovial with his Energy and Commerce Committee pal Barton.

Barton added: “We do it to have fun and have some bipartisan social interactions with our friends on the Democratic side.”

“It’ll be fun,” he said.