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Democrats Reclaim Congressional Baseball Title, Bipartisanship Rules

Night ends with gracious hand-over of trophy

California Rep. Jimmy Panetta slides in safe at home as GOP catcher Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois tries to apply the tag during the the 56th annual Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park in Washington on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
California Rep. Jimmy Panetta slides in safe at home as GOP catcher Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois tries to apply the tag during the the 56th annual Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park in Washington on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Democrats regained their mojo on Thursday night at Nationals Park with a commanding 11-2 victory over the Republicans at the 56th annual Congressional Baseball Game.

But with the tragic shooting during the Republicans’ team practice the day before, esprit de corps was the main game plan for both teams, dispelling for at least a night, the clouds of highly charged partisanship that has plagued both sides of the aisle this year.

In a final touching conclusion to the game, the Democrats’ team manager Mike Doyle turned over the coveted Roll Call Trophy to Republican manager Joe L. Barton to place in Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s office until he made it back to Congress. Scalise was one of five wounded in Wednesday morning’s shooting in Alexandria, Virginia. 

Though the Democrats’ bats were hot throughout the night, they also capitalized on some costly GOP defensive errors.

The sobering shooting that left Scalise with a grievous hip wound and in critical condition in a hospital bed did not seem to deter the mood and revelry of the players and fans. An unexpectedly large crowd of close to 25,000 turned out to enjoy a night of bipartisan camaraderie — the very spirit the congressional baseball game is meant to invoke.

A few pregame events were bipartisan crowdpleasers.

Before the first pitch, Democratic and Republican fans joined in cheers as both teams took to the field in a moment of prayer for Scalise and the four other victims.

Game On: Video Highlights from the 2017 Congressional Baseball Game

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Another cheer erupted when the announcer informed attendees that some of the proceeds from the charity game will go toward the Capitol Police Memorial Fund. Some attendees wore navy Capitol Police caps in honor of the two officers credited with preventing more casualties during the attack, despite being wounded themselves.

The next cheer came when Scalise’s name was called out during the team introductions. Both Republican and Democratic fans gave the missing GOP leader a huge standing ovation.

Former Yankees manager Joe Torre also got a cheer when he presented the baseball to injured Capitol Police officer David Bailey, who was wounded by shrapnel during the attack. Bailey then threw this year’s ceremonial first pitch.

The spirit of unity continued as Senate and House leadership announced the start of the game following a pre-taped welcome video message from President Donald Trump.

But competition is the name of the game and this was evident at the start as Pennsylvania Rep. Ryan A. Costello, lead batter for the Republicans, walked, stole second, made third after a ground out by Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, and stole home during Texas Rep. Kevin Brady’s at bat.

Democratic starting pitcher, Rep. Cedric L. Richmond of Louisiana, seemed to struggle throughout the first inning and GOP pinch runner, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee, took advantage, stealing second after a wild pitch and also scoring on two more.

Democrats entered the bottom of the first with a 2-0 deficit.

But California Rep. Raul Ruiz immediately answered the Democrats’ call with a powerful single, and later stole second.

North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker, the GOP pitcher, then walked California Rep. Jared Huffman, opening the door for Richmond, arguably the best player in the history of the game, to load the bases with a de facto bunt.

Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio tied the game with a double, allowing Ruiz and Huffman to score. Colorado Rep. Jared Polis’ hit, though called out at first, allowed Richmond to score, pulling the Democrats ahead, ended the first inning with a 3-2 lead.

The second inning began with a solid single from GOP catcher, Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis.

As the top of the inning continued, Richmond’s pitching was both shaky and solid. After striking out Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Georgia Rep. Barry Loudermilk hit a single off of him, allowing Davis to third.

But another wild pitch allowed Loudermilk to steal second. Then Richmond struck out lead batter Costello, stranding Davis at third and Democrats retained their one-point lead.

Solid defensive play by Republicans resulted in a short at bat for Democrats as the second inning ended with the same score, 3-2.

Bats went quiet for the Republicans in the third inning — and later ones. But not for Democrats, who blew open the inning with a few hits and capitalized on a few GOP defensive errors.

Richmond, thanks to an error at first base, hit a double. Polis then batted him in with an RBI single, advancing the Democrats, 4-2.

Walker later walked Connecticut Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, hitting him with a wild pitch. California Rep. Pete Aguilar then hit a double, allowing three more runs. Democrats ended the inning with a solid 7-2 lead.

Both offenses were unproductive in the fourth inning, the highlight being the mid-game Washington Nationals’ Presidents Race. (Teddy took the checkered flag.)

Richmond’s command was in full force throughout the fifth and the remaining innings, quieting the GOP’s bats once again. He led a major offensive charge in the fifth for the Democrats, starting the inning with a powerhouse triple.

Texas Rep. Joe L. Barton, the Republicans’ team manager, then pulled starter Walker, putting in Pennsylvania Rep. Patrick Meehan as relief.

But errors continued to dog the GOP as a throwing error by Meehan gave Democrats another run (and a de facto double for Polis).

Meehan then walked California Rep. Linda T. Sánchez, a favorite among the Democratic fans.

California Rep. Nanette Barragan, the only other female player, also took to the plate in the fifth inning, prompting cheers from Democratic fans and hitting a single and an RBI.

The Republicans seemed tired by the end of the fifth inning, with the Democrats solidly ahead 11-2, a comfortable lead that held to the end of the game. 

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