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Congressional Women’s Softball Prepares to Lose a Staple

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who has played since game was started in 2009, announced retirement earlier

Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is expected to play her final Congressional Women’s Softball Game next year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is expected to play her final Congressional Women’s Softball Game next year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

After an election, there are always comings and goings from the Congressional Women’s Softball Game rosters. But the biggest news of the offseason this year was that the game will soon be losing Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

The Florida Republican has played in the charity event pitting female lawmakers against members of the media since the first one in 2009. But she announced last month that she will be retiring after her current term. 

The rosters for the June 21 game, shared exclusively with Roll Call, are missing a few names from last year. New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte lost to Democrat Maggie Hassan in November. North Carolina Rep. Renee Ellmers lost a GOP primary race while Florida Democratic Rep. Gwen Graham opted not to seek re-election.

[Bad News Babes Triumph in Congressional Women’s Softball Game]

For the Bad News Babes — the media team, which won 8-4 last year — Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown is on the sidelines this year and The New York Times’ Jill Agostino moved to New York.

Democratic rookies on the members’ team include Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Reps. Nanette Barragán of California, Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware, Stephanie Murphy of Florida and Norma J. Torres of California. The lone GOP new face is New York Rep. Claudia Tenney.

But all eyes will be on Ros-Lehtinen, who is considered a legendary figure on the field, before she retires.

“Ily has one of the best attitudes of anyone on our Congressional Women’s Softball Team,” said Rep. Cheri Bustos, an Illinois Democrat. “She shows up to every practice, dutifully will run out to right field, catch what she can and run after what she misses — smiling all the way.” 

“She’s funny, fun, and always has a kind word for anyone around,” Bustos added. “I consider her one of my favorite members of Congress across the aisle, not just for her kindness, but because of her reasonableness.”

[New Faces on Congressional Baseball Teams — Including a Woman]

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat, paid tribute to Ros-Lehtinen’s “zest for life.”

“She has been a consummate teammate, starting as a softball novice in our first year to becoming a team co-captain,” Wasserman Schultz said. “She truly embodies the spirit of the game, where partisan differences are set aside for some healthy athletic competition and the pursuit of a higher cause — raising funds to tackle the critical issues unique to young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer.”

Members of the press team cited her contributions off the field, too.

“I play third base, right by the member dugout, which means I have to listen to the taunts of Ros-Lehtinen and [Sen.] Shelley Moore Capito,” the Texas Tribune’s Abby Livingston said in an email. “They’re quite a pair and seem like they’ve been friends forever. I’m going to miss IRL that first inning in 2019 when I play defense, and she’s not there up clenching the dugout gate trying to distract me.”

Livingston also noted that with Brown and Agostino’s departure, the media team has lost its bullpen.

“As important as pitching is though, more than anything, we’ll miss their team spirit,” she said. “They’re fixtures on the team. Luckily, Carrie will be in the dugout with us.”

Livingston has played in the game since 2011. She is confident her team can pull out another win.

“We have a lineup of pitchers we are trying out, and former rookies are stepping up into leadership roles,” she said. “As anyone who ever played Little League knows, a team has a different chemistry and character each year. Some kids move away. And some of us grow up together.”

Also on the Bad News Babes roster this year is Roll Call senior political reporter Bridget Bowman, who will be playing her second game. 

Rookies on the press team include Mary Bruce of ABC News, Emily Goodin of RealClearPolitics, Erica Hendry and Pamela Kirkland of PBS NewsHour, Leigh Munsil of CNN, Alicia Parlapiano of The New York Times, and Kate Sheppard of the Huffington Post. 

Proceeds from the game at the Watkins Recreation Center go to the Young Survival Coalition, which raises funds and awareness for young women with breast cancer.

“We are thrilled about this year’s rosters, and we’re so proud to be a positive force behind common ground in Washington,” said Atalie Ebersole, president and treasurer of the Congressional Women’s Softball Game. “For the past nine years, we have seen wins and losses on the softball field, and they have only strengthened friendships across the aisle and also served to bring our women leaders together, united in the common mission — to beat cancer.”

Members Team

Coaches: Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., Victoria Barnes, Jim Kiley and Natalie Buchanan.

Bad News Babes

  • Jen Bendery, Huffington Post
  • Mikayla Bouchard, The New York Times (Captain)
  • Bridget Bowman, Roll Call
  • Mary Bruce, ABC News 
  • Leigh Ann Caldwell, NBC News
  • Lisa Desjardins, PBS NewsHour
  • Elise Foley, Huffington Post
  • Emily Goodin, RealClearPolitics 
  • Erica Hendry, PBS NewsHour
  • Emmarie Huetteman, The New York Times
  • Kasie Hunt, MSNBC
  • Tamara Keith, NPR
  • Pamela Kirkland, PBS NewsHour 
  • Abby Livingston, Texas Tribune
  • Leigh Munsil, CNN 
  • Alicia Parlapiano, The New York Times 
  • Julie Percha, PBS NewsHour
  • Elena Schneider, Politico
  • Kate Sheppard, Huffington Post 
  • Lynn Sweet, Chicago Sun-Times
  • Shawna Thomas, Vice
  • Amy Walter, Cook Political Report (Captain)
  • Sarah Wire, Los Angeles Times

Coaches: Carl Hulse (The New York Times), Frank Thorp (NBC News), and Dave Espo (The Associated Press)

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