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Protesters run on the field while GOP runs roughshod over Dems at Congressional Baseball Game

Cops tackle climate activists, arresting eight

Rep. Jake Ellzey, R-Texas, scores in the first inning during the Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park on Wednesday night.
Rep. Jake Ellzey, R-Texas, scores in the first inning during the Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park on Wednesday night. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The most exciting action at the annual Congressional Baseball Game had nothing to do with watching America’s pastime played by non-athletes.

Protesters took to the field during the charity fundraising matchup between Democratic and Republican members of Congress on Wednesday night, temporarily disrupting the slow-paced, high-error game that ended with the GOP on top for the fourth year in a row, 31-11. 

With the bases juiced and GOP star Greg Steube of Florida at the plate, activists jumped from the stands at Nationals Park. Capitol Police immediately tackled and handcuffed several people dressed in white T-shirts reading “END FOSSIL FUELS,” as other officers urged members of Congress to flee the field.

Climate Defiance claimed credit for the protest. “Congress sends billions of public $$ to subsidize deadly fossil fuels — but the police are tackling us instead,” the group wrote on X. 

Capitol Police confirmed on X that eight protesters had been arrested. As play resumed, officers surrounded the sides of the infield and the warning track, some sporting semi-automatic rifles. 

Earlier, just ahead of the national anthem, a separate group of pro-Palestinian protesters stood in the stands along the third baseline — the Democrats’ side — holding signs and chanting “Free Palestine.” A chant of “USA, USA” from the Republican side quickly drowned them out. 

While they might not have a cohesive line on IVF, Republicans were all about the RBIs Wednesday night, stringing together singles and doubles galore to drive in runs.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who nearly died when a shooter attacked a GOP practice ahead of the 2017 game, led off the Republicans by legging out a single, to the raucous applause of his fan club seated right behind the dugout. Republicans ended the inning with four runs, while Democrats scored one error and an injury — Kentucky Rep. Morgan McGarvey limped off after back-to-back shots to left field had him sprinting in vain for the ball. 

Things improved a little for the left when they came up to bat. Despite the House spending all day voting on National Defense Authorization Act amendments, neither side showed much interest in fielding, and the Democrats were able to manufacture two runs on four hits, aided a bit by some nervy baserunning and a lot by some nervous catching.

Perhaps rattled by the climate protesters, the Republicans left three on base at the top of the second inning, and in the bottom the lefties’ bats — ironically, mostly righties — came alive. Democrats pulled ahead, 5-4, a remarkable turnaround from the shellacking they endured in the last two matchups.

Things got chippy in the bottom of the third, when Dems’ star pinch runner Greg Casar first bumped into the GOP’s Brad Wenstrup of Ohio while stealing second, and then collided hard with fellow Texan August Pfluger getting caught at third. 

The Republicans opened it up in the fourth inning, scoring seven, and they never looked back. The Democrats managed to put together a few more runs, made a few valiant attempts at diving catches, and even managed to turn a double play at one point, but they were no match for the GOP’s sluggers.

More big hits of the bad kind came in the fifth, when Casar successfully dove home but an errant throw led GOP catcher Morgan Luttrell of Texas to barrel into the home plate umpire, who remained on the ground for a few minutes before returning to call the game. 

Reps. Greg Steube, R-Fla., and Lisa McClain, R-Mich., take a picture on the field before the baseball game on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Republicans showed the kind of discipline and teamwork on the field that they’ve rarely been able to pull off on the Hill, a product of the numerous 5:30 a.m. practices under the watchful eye of team skipper, Rep. Roger Williams of Texas, a former minor leaguer. 

The Democrats, meanwhile, were as motley as their uniforms — while the GOP dresses in matching red jerseys with just their hats differing, the Dems sport whatever they want.

Before the game, both sides offered the kind of confident predictions usually reserved for Election Day — though in the Democrats’ case, it was the quietly desperate display you hear from politicians down big in the polls. “Democrats are going to win,” said Rep. Wiley Nickel of North Carolina. “Big win.”

Rep. Jared Moskowitz, sporting a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School jersey (he’s an alum), sounded like an underdog hoping for an outcome even he didn’t expect. “I don’t know. Maybe we’ll win. Maybe we’ll lose. We’ll see,” he said.

There were no polling averages or ratings from Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales before Wednesday’s game, but there were odds from internet gambling websites. BetOnline.ag gave 5/7 odds for a GOP win, and also pegged the Republicans as more likely to bean their opponents with a pitch or throw the first punch in a bench-clearing brawl. 

The Republicans, meanwhile, sauntered in with the swagger of someone expecting the AP to call their race favorably within a minute of the polls closing. “Victory,” was all Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida said.

“We’re gonna play a baseball game,” said Williams. “We’re gonna start at 0-0, and at the end of the night, Republicans will have won.”

In the end, Williams, a staunch conservative, was right. But he didn’t say how long it would take. By the time the game wrapped up at 10:55 p.m. on a school night, only the most diehard staffers remained in the stands. For comparison, the longest Major League Baseball game last season was a 13-inning slog that lasted 4 hours and 24 minutes.

This year’s game sold around 25,000 tickets, according to organizers. That’s roughly 2,000 more than the Washington Nationals’ average home attendance in 2023, and nearly four times what the lowly Oakland Athletics see this year as they prepare to relocate to Las Vegas. 

Organizers announced they had raised more than $2.2 million, supporting more than 45 local charities like the Washington Literacy Center, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington and Washington Nationals Philanthropies. Those figures broke last year’s record of $1.8 million. 

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

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