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For Love of the Game

Lawmakers Put Aside Acrimony to Have Fun on the Diamond

On Thursday night at Nationals Park, there was no bitterness. There was no bickering over the national debt. There wasn’t even the typical July Beltway heat or humidity.

On a made-to-order evening for baseball in the nation’s capital, there was only the game.

Democrats dominated the Republicans, 8-2, in the 50th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game, but for just a moment lawmakers got to escape the divisive debate over how to raise the nation’s debt ceiling and instead enjoy its pastime.

Mere hours after a session with President Barack Obama at the White House, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was able to cheerfully work a crowd, dressed in a casual striped pink polo, khaki shorts and brown loafers. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sat in the first row behind home plate, cheering on her side despite a prime location to heckle the other team. And House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) walked through the stands on the third base line, packed with Democratic staffers, to a standing ovation.

And in the most alternate of D.C. universes, a freshman in the minority had the biggest effect on the game.

First-term Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, shutting down the GOP side, while also blasting hits all over the outfield when the Democrats were at bat.

As Richmond walked to the dugout in the middle of the sixth, minutes after giving up his first single to Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), he was showered with chants of “MVP” from the hundreds of Democrats in the stands relishing his control of the mound in the first game since Democrats lost control of the House.

Video: Highlights from the 2011 Congressional Baseball Game

Richmond, the first batter for the Democrats in the bottom of the sixth, laced a single down the third base line to go with the two soaring drives into center field he had earlier in the game.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) also was an offensive powerhouse, going 3-for-3 with a run batted in in the second inning to give the Democrats a 4-0 lead that effectively sealed the game.

The Democrats scored four more times, totaling 15 hits. The GOP’s only two runs came after Richmond began to tire in the seventh and final inning, walking in a run before giving up a bases-loaded single that scored the Republicans’ second tally.

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) made a diving catch at first base to end the game.

The win gave the Democrats control of the coveted Roll Call trophy, symbolizing their third straight victory over the GOP.

“We worked hard for this, and this team deserves this trophy,” said Democratic manager Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, hoisting his team’s hardware on the field after the game.

But the final score, a six-run drubbing from a Democratic squad that was about half the size of the GOP team, did not tell the whole story of the game Thursday.

There were staffers, like those from the office of National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) who arrived at the park early. There were the “Chandterns,” the unpaid cheering section for Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.), and then there were the bold and teasing liberal fans holding a poster of a tearful Boehner that read, “There’s no crying in baseball.”

Only one Senator participated, tea party champion Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who struck out looking in his only at bat.

Three women played in this year’s game: veteran Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), as well as two Republicans who were unlisted on the roster but announced at game time, West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito and Alabama freshman Martha Roby.

Before the game, lawmakers giddily talked with the media in front of their respective dugouts, pretending for a night that they were in the big leagues.

Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.), who bore a slight resemblance to former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda in his baseball whites, showed off his custom red, white and blue glove, with “Congressman” stitched in white thread above an American flag patch.

He told TV reporters that he served in the Army in the 1960s and wore the patriotic-themed mitt to honor the troops.