Climate protesters will risk arrest at Congressional Baseball Game

They hope to shut it down, or at least cause disruption

Republicans celebrate their win during last year’s Congressional Baseball Game. This year, “nonviolent” demonstrators have vowed to disrupt the game. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Republicans celebrate their win during last year’s Congressional Baseball Game. This year, “nonviolent” demonstrators have vowed to disrupt the game. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted July 26, 2022 at 5:05pm

As lawmakers squeeze in their last practices before Thursday night’s Congressional Baseball Game, climate protesters are finalizing their own plans.

“We refuse to watch politicians literally play games while the world burns,” said Vincent Vertuccio, a student at George Washington University.

Vertuccio helped form a new coalition this summer to push for federal climate legislation. Angered by a lack of action in Congress, the group — called Now or Never — is targeting the annual baseball game, which pits lawmakers against each other in a friendly competition for charity. 

While the organizers have posted signs around Washington vowing to “shut down” the game at Nationals Park, Vertuccio stressed they are “entirely nonviolent” and aim to “be disruptive in a peaceful way.”

He expects 50 to 300 people to join the protest, with some entering the stadium. “A lot of them are planning on risking arrest,” he said.

Advocates describe renewed urgency this month after Sen. Joe Manchin III once again broke with his party and shot down hopes of passing a package to curb climate change. 

The West Virginia Democrat is not among the dozens of lawmakers slated to play at the baseball game Thursday night, and protesting a charity event may not seem like a natural fit. 

But Vertuccio said he believes dire times call for unconventional tactics, even if it means disrupting an event that raises money for nonprofits like the Boys and Girls Clubs and the Washington Literacy Center.

“There’s no charity on a dead planet,” he said, citing a rise in wildfires, heat waves and sea levels linked to humans’ use of fossil fuels.

Among the sponsors of the game are oil companies Chevron and BP, he noted. Vertuccio is also an organizer with ShutDownDC, a group that in the past has blocked traffic to protest climate change.

Capitol Police are aware that “demonstrators are talking about plans to protest political issues” and “have a robust security plan in place,” according to a spokesperson. “Our mission also includes safeguarding a person’s ability to exercise their First Amendment rights; however, that does not mean people will be allowed to violate the law.” 

Security tightened around the game after a gunman opened fire on a Republican practice session in 2017, injuring Steve Scalise of Louisiana and others.

The baseball tradition stretches back to 1909, and this is not the first time it has fallen during a tense legislative period. Last year, it came as an infrastructure deal and a larger social policy package hung in the balance. Speaker Nancy Pelosi could be seen on the sidelines, vigorously working the phones even as she watched her colleagues step up to the plate.

The game is never an example of peak athleticism, with middle-aged lawmakers trading hits. The Democratic team was dominant for a time thanks to star pitcher Cedric Richmond, but that changed when he left Congress for a job in the Biden White House. Republicans won last year, 13-12, and many are confident they can pull off a repeat.

“We’re better than we were last year,” said Roger Williams of Texas, who coaches the GOP team.

His players have been working out since March 1, arriving for practice as early as 5:30 a.m. “The baseball game is a big deal. I mean, it’s been played for 115 years,” he said.

“I think we win 13 to 3. You can take that to the bank,” said Randy Feenstra, an Iowa Republican.

It will be the last year on the field for several members. On the Republican side, longtime player Kevin Brady of Texas is retiring, for example, while Rodney Davis lost his primary in Illinois.

On the Democratic side, Ed Perlmutter of Colorado and team coach Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania are not running for reelection. Things are still up in the air for Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, who faces a tough race in the midterms, and he wouldn’t make any predictions for Thursday night. 

“Trash talk doesn’t win baseball games or elections,” Malinowski said.

Here are the rosters for the game, though not everyone on the list will see playing time:

Democrats

Pete Aguilar (CA-31)
Colin Allred (TX-32)
Nanette Barragán (CA-44)
Salud Carbajal (CA-24)
Tony Cárdenas (CA-29)
Ruben Gallego (AZ-07)
Jared Huffman (CA-02)
Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08)
Kai Kahele (HI-02)
Dan Kildee (MI-05)
Andy Levin (MI-09)
Mike Levin (CA-49)
Tom Malinowski (NJ-07)
Joe Morelle (NY-25)
Frank Mrvan (IN-01)
Chris Murphy (CT-Sen.)
Jon Ossoff (GA-Sen.)
Jimmy Panetta (CA-20)
Ed Perlmutter (CO-07)
Dean Phillips (MN-03)
Raul Ruiz (CA-36)
Tim Ryan (OH-13)
Linda T. Sánchez (CA-38)
Adam Smith (WA-09)
Greg Stanton (AZ-09)
Tom Suozzi (NY-03)
Eric Swalwell (CA-15)
Marc Veasey (TX-33)

Republicans

Jodey Arrington (TX-19)
Jack Bergman (MI-01)
Mike Bost (IL-12)
Kevin Brady (TX-08)
Mo Brooks (AL-05)
Tim Burchett (TN-02)
Kat Cammack (FL-03)
Andrew Clyde (GA-09)
Rodney Davis (IL-13)
Jeff Duncan (SC-03)
Jake Ellzey (TX-06)
Joni Ernst (IA-Sen.)
Pat Fallon (TX-04)
Randy Feenstra (IA-04)
Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01)
Chuck Fleischmann (TN-03)
Mike Garcia (CA-25)
Carlos Gimenez (FL-26)
Anthony Gonzalez (OH-16)
Kevin Hern (OK-01)
Bill Huizenga (MI-02)
Bill Johnson (OH-06)
Trent Kelly (MS-01)
Lisa McClain (MI-10)
John Moolenaar (MI-04)
Barry Moore (AL-02)
Blake Moore (UT-01)
Greg Murphy (NC-03)
Steve Palazzo (MS-04)
Gary Palmer (AL-06)
Rand Paul (KY- Sen.)
August Pfluger (TX-11)
Steve Scalise (LA-01)
Pete Sessions (TX-17)
Greg Steube (FL-17)
Van Taylor (TX-03)
William Timmons (SC-04)
Brad Wenstrup (OH-02)