Nats fever sweeps Congress, K Street

Politics in the District has competition from baseball on Wednesday as the city hosts a playoff game for the first time in nearly 80 years.

Congressional staff working on Capitol Hill received warnings that they would hear the boom of four F-16s doing a low flyover of the stadium at 1 p.m. for the start of the game between the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals.

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It is the first postseason baseball contest in the nation's capital since 1933.

Ken Kies, a prominent Republican tax lobbyist, said that, while many congressional staffers are likely out on the campaign trail, he knew that at least some aides would be in the stands at Wednesday's game.

"I was walking through Longworth before, and I really don't think I saw a single person," Kies said of the House office building.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay took the friendly sports rivalry to Twitter, sending each other Photoshopped images of government buildings with their respective city flags flying over them.

"May the best team win," Gray tweeted shortly before former Nationals manager Frank Robinson threw out the first pitch. 

Several Nats fans in Congress said they regrettably would miss the game.

"Gang of Eight talks will keep me from Nats Park today, but I’m rooting for the @Nationals in today’s playoff," Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) tweeted along with the popular hashtag #natitude.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a big baseball fan, couldn’t make Wednesday's game either. His office said he is out of the country, but most likely will be getting updates on the game through his iPhone.

Members of the media were also following the afternoon action at Nats Park. Reporters in the White House press briefing room were watching the pregame show live, according to a tweet from Associated Press reporter Ken Thomas.

CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer tweeted that he was disappointed to miss the game, but was watching it on TV as he prepared to host his show, CNN's "The Situation Room."

Some famous media names even got the afternoon off. Major League Baseball tweeted pictures of David Gregory at Nats Park that showed the “Meet The Press” host in a “sea of red.”

Baseball fever was also emptying out offices on K Street. Several lobbyists told The Hill they were going to the game on Wednesday afternoon, including Kevin McGuiness, president of the McGuiness Group.

McGuiness, a registered lobbyist for the Major League Baseball Players Association, grew up in Glen Echo, Md., and attended Washington Senators games as a kid. 

“Are you kidding? I don't have another 79 years,” McGuiness said. “It's going to be a phenomenal day for the city, the team and the players.” 

Others in the influence industry were headed to the park as well.

“I have been a season-ticket holder since 2005 when the Nats came to town, so I couldn't miss the first playoff game,” said Bill Spencer of Potomac Strategic Development Co. 

The excitement generated by the team’s playoff run has given the city’s warring political factions something to agree on during the bitter presidential campaign season.

Juan Williams, a Fox News analyst and columnist for The Hill, called the Nationals a "rejuvenating" force for a city mired in partisanship and gridlock.

"It's somewhere where the media, the politicians, the lobbyists can all find some common ground," Williams said Wednesday in a telephone interview as he walked toward the stadium for game three. "When you're in a conversation and talk switches to the Nationals, it's not as partisan, and the tension just lifts away."

Williams, who grew up a New York Mets fan in Brooklyn, said he hoped this Nationals team could end up like the 1969 "Amazin' Mets," who started the season as underdogs and improbably marched to a World Series crown, beating the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles (the Orioles are also in the playoffs for the first time in a long while this year). 

"My heart wants to believe," Williams said, just after the fighter jets roared overhead.