“We’re gonna crush them. Absolutely crush them,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said last Friday. “No mercy. It’ll be a bloodbath.”
The New York Democrat wasn’t talking about the ongoing negotiations over a reconciliation package, nor the upcoming gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey. She was talking softball — specifically the Congressional Women’s Softball Game set for 7 p.m. this Wednesday. The annual matchup pits members of Congress against the Bad News Babes, a squad of Washington-based journalists.
The trash talking is all tongue-in-cheek, but the philanthropic motivation behind the game is deadly serious: fighting breast cancer.
One of the game’s founders, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, was just 41 when she found a lump on her breast. She kept the cancer secret for a little over a year, not wanting to scare her children or let the diagnosis define her, or sideline her, on the Hill.
“Playing in this game every year really makes a difference, because we can shine the light on a problem that a lot of people don’t even know about,” said Gillibrand.
The annual matchup benefits the Young Survival Coalition, a support group that advocates on behalf of young patients and survivors of breast cancer. Around 13,000 younger women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, often from more aggressive forms that evade early detection because breast cancer is a danger that just isn’t on most 30-somethings’ radar. This year, the game has raised over $489,000, said Congressional Women’s Softball Game president Atalie Ebersole. That’s a huge step up from 2019’s $365,000, which itself was a record.
The game began in 2009, and this will be the 12th matchup. The pandemic put the kibosh on last year’s game. The press team has a dominant 8-3 record and enters Wednesday’s matchup with a four-game winning streak.
The lawmakers hope an influx of young talent will change the outcome this year — eight rookies join the squad, including Sara Jacobs, D-Calif., and Stephanie Bice, R-Okla. Meanwhile, the Bad News Babes have reportedly had low numbers at practice.
One of the journalists’ own will throw out the first pitch: Meg Kinnard, a politics reporter for The Associated Press who was recently found to be cancer free after being diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer earlier this year.
(Full disclosure: The press team also includes slugger and CQ Roll Call senior political reporter Bridget Bowman.)
The softball game is just one of Congress’ many charitable sporting events around Washington, all of which were canceled last year due to COVID. Now those events are returning, like a basketball game Tuesday pitting lawmakers against lobbyists.
The largest is the Congressional Baseball Game, held at Nationals Park. While that matchup was broadcast nationally on Fox Sports and C-SPAN this year, the softball game gets less attention — a fact some players pointed out on Twitter last month.
“It’s so wonderful how engaged people can be with the Congressional Baseball Game when it’s broadcasted across the country. It would also be lovely if the Congressional Women’s Softball game would ever be received in the same way,” tweeted Abby Livingston of the Texas Tribune, who will be on the field Wednesday night.
“I associate myself with the gentle lady’s remarks,” Wasserman Schultz replied.
Tickets to the game are $10.