Finding Sanctuary in the Stadium

Posted March 30, 2011 at 5:57pm

Put the continuing resolution away. Forget the next campaign. Instead, buy some peanuts and crackerjacks. Or a hotdog, or sunflower seeds. Maybe a pretzel and beer, if that’s your thing.

It’s time to ditch the contentious politics and find peace in America’s favorite pastime: baseball. 

Look no further than Nationals Park, where the Washington Nationals face off against the Atlanta Braves in the first home game of the season at 1:05 p.m. today.

But don’t worry if you can’t slip out of the office today.

From April to September, the team will play more than 25 weekend home games, giving Members and staffers plenty of chances to soak up sun on the bleachers, laugh at the oversized presidents, enjoy Dippin’ Dots served inside mini batting helmets and watch players slide into first base.

Who knows — the team may even pull off one or two victories (fingers crossed).  

Weekends aren’t the only times available for staffers to hit the ballpark. Most home games scheduled Monday through Friday conveniently begin at 7:05 p.m., giving Hill employees ample time to wrap up their duties, grab some dinner and head to the stadium.

Congressional recesses are also a perfect time to rejuvenate with baseball. Staffers who stay on the Hill during Congress’ time off have the option of frequenting more than 30 Nationals games scheduled when Congress is out of session this season. 

For instance, five home games are scheduled during the next recess in late April. During the August recess, the Nationals will play almost a dozen times in D.C.

Although most Members return to their districts during breaks, local Members, including D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) and Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Donna Edwards (D-Md.), have the perk of living close enough to the city to attend games during recess, too.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, once a Washington Senators fan before that team became the Texas Rangers, said he plans to root for the Nationals from the stands this year.

“In the past I haven’t been able to go to games as often as I’d like — the DCCC kept me busy,” the Maryland Democrat said in a statement. “But hopefully once the budget season slows down I’ll have a chance to catch a game or two with my kids.”

Van Hollen is quick to point out that Ted Lerner, owner of the Nationals, lives in his district. The lawmaker’s also a fan of third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, whom he called a “great team leader,” and he’s excited that the owners have added Jayson Werth, an incoming outfielder from the Philadelphia Phillies, to the lineup. 

After a few innings of fly balls and salty peanuts, Members and staffers will remember normal life and forget politics. 

They may even feel confident enough to sit with their colleagues from across the aisle, as if they were listening to the State of the Union address. 

In October 2010, for example, in the middle of heated campaigns just before the elections, Nathan Daschle, then-executive director of the Democratic Governors Association, and Nick Ayers, then-executive director of the Republican Governors Association, attended a Nationals game together, according to Joanna Comfort, the Nationals’ senior communications manager.

Comfort hopes the stadium can be a sanctuary for bickering Republicans and Democrats, a place they can go and sit together as friends.

That might be wishful thinking, but even if it’s possible, staffers should leave the political talk at the entrance, at least for a few innings.

For more information about Nationals games and for a full season schedule, visit