At five years old, the Congressional Women’s Softball Game looks all grown up.
At the game Wednesday night, signs abounded that the annual charity matchup, which pits members of Congress against the Washington press corps, has become an established tradition on Capitol Hill.
There were bigger crowds than in previous years, food trucks peddling gourmet ice cream and pineapple-basil popsicles, a full-fledged social-media campaign to promote it and a few Washington celebs in the stands (hey, Speaker John Boehner!, hi, Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough!).
“I even have tabs on my folder!” boasted Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota Democrat who, along with CNN’s Dana Bash, serves as one of the announcers and color commentators. She held up a sheaf of well-organized notes detailing statistics about the players.
Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), the Members’ starting catcher, tells the Loop that the more professional tone has extended to her team’s preparation and training schedule. “We’ve really been working on our skills development,” she says. “You’ve seen people really showing up for practice, taking it seriously — and I think you’ll see that on the field.”
The lawmakers put in a strong performance throughout, but the sixth inning proved lethal for them, when the “Bad News Babes” scored six runs.
Although the competitive spirit was alive and well, the players were quick to note that the evening was really about raising money and awareness for the Young Survival Coalition , an organization devoted to supporting young women diagnosed with breast cancer.
Pre-game, dark clouds on the horizon and a few ominous cracks of thunder had the players and the crowds in the bleachers eyeing the skies, but play got underway as scheduled, and the rain held off until the final inning.
The lawmakers’ early success prompted Bash to jokingly question whether Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who co-founded the game after her own battle with breast cancer and is also the chair of the Democratic National Committee, was using some new techniques.
“I’m convinced she’s recruiting not just new members but softball players,” Bash said.
Not all the drama was on the diamond, though. The lawmakers were cheered on by pom-pom waving squad of cheerleaders led by former Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), which included Rep. Teri Sewell (D-Ala.). Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) hovered on the sidelines, heckling the journos’ coach, David Espo of the AP, and suggesting lines for the announcers. House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer danced to the Alicia Keys’ tune, “Girl on Fire,” blasting from the speakers between plays while House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy chowed down on Cracker Jacks.
Klobuchar’s factoids also proved entertaining: Rep. Kathy Castor (Fla.) was once “bitten by a monkey in France” and of Edwards she revealed, “Some people leave their heart in San Francisco, Donna left her appendix in Spain.”