GOP ekes out win in return of Congressional Baseball Game
Republicans snagged their third win in 13 years in the annual Congressional Baseball Game Wednesday night, beating Democrats 13-12 in a back-and-forth affair that featured a rare out-of-the-park home run.
The annual bipartisan fundraiser, which was canceled last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, marked a moment of levity in the midst of an intense week on Capitol Hill as Democrats work to pass President Biden’s economic agenda.
“What a great win,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) told The Hill after the game, pointing to a fence-clearing home run from Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.), the first in more than a decade.
“Man it was intense — very close all the way through,” Scalise added, emphasizing the importance of the bipartisan tradition at Nationals Park, which was delayed until late September this year because of the pandemic.
“You need to do this every now and then, where you get away from the madness and come out and play the kid’s game in the big league ballpark,” Scalise said. “You’re competing, and it was very intense competition. But we’re going to go back to work tomorrow, but it’s nice to just come and do something like this where you can build better relationships.”
Cheers erupted when Scalise was announced in the stadium. Scalise was shot and seriously wounded in 2017 at a practice for that year’s game, making Wednesday’s victory his first since the incident. He called it a “harbinger of things to come.”
Republicans most recently won the game in 2008 and 2016. Democrats took the mound this year without their former star player, Cedric Richmond, who left Congress to join the Biden administration in January.
The game featured strong showings from players like Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), who hit two triples and an inside-the-park home run. But with the bases loaded later on in the sixth inning, Panetta struck out.
Some Democrats’ confidence hadn’t waned leading up to the game, even with Richmond on the sidelines.
“I’m fired up,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said as he entered the field to warm up.
Although he wasn’t batting this year, Richmond was still seen warming up with the Democratic team in the outfield as players entered the stadium.
Just before the first pitch, he was inducted into the Congressional Baseball Hall of Fame alongside former Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), the late President George H.W. Bush and Biden. Richmond and Shimkus also threw the first pitch.
Biden’s granddaughter, Naomi Biden, accepted the award on his behalf. But the president later arrived at Nationals Park in the second inning — ushered to the field by Richmond — and visited both teams’ dugouts.
Play was paused for a few minutes and resumed while Biden shook hands, took selfies and signed baseballs with other Democrats.
Rep. Barry Moore (R-Ala.) said the freshman class brought a lot of “young talent” that contributed to the Republican team’s success.
“It was good to get a win, it’s been a long time,” he said. “As a freshman to come in and get a win, I’m feeling really good about it.”
He added that the game provided an opportunity for lawmakers to engage in a more collegial setting.
“It was nice to play some baseball and then get to shake the Democrats’ hands. We don’t get a lot of that on the floor,” Moore said.