The humidity was grotesquely high, the talent level on the field was extremely low and it was the most fun I’d had at a ballpark in a long time. For a first-timer at the Congressional Baseball Game, Thursday night’s tilt between the Democrats and the Republicans provided a surprisingly good time, without all the bells, whistles and hassles of the big league experience.
Sure the baseball is atrocious, but who cares? Lines weren’t crushingly long, there were a handful of giveaways at the gate and you know, the president might show up. Unfortunately, missed a huge opportunity to be a part of the President’s Race. After emerging from the Democrats’ dugout in the fourth inning, he simply shook hands and posed for photos instead of getting involved with Teddy’s win.
Before the game, Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) was warming up in right field with his fellow GOPers. Normally, he’d be in the Republicans’ pitching rotation, but the lefty was on the DL. Sporting a full Harrisburg Senators uniform he calls the Nationals his NL team. “It’s exciting for me because I’m a Yankee fan and in my old district, I had the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees. Then I come to Congress and I’m down here with the Nats, and the Nats are my National League team, and I get them in the minor leagues, so for me it was best of both worlds,” Barletta said. “I can’t go wrong.”
Barletta grew up playing baseball with Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, and tries to get out to Nationals Park when his teams have been in town. He had dreams of being a Major League Baseball player himself, but that obviously didn’t work out.
“I left college actually to try out with the Cincinnati Reds, that was my dream. My dream was to play centerfield for the Yankees, but I had a tryout with Cincinnati. But my hopes were that I’d make Cincinnati and get traded to the Yankees,” he said with a laugh. “But it was during the Big Red Machine. Their outfield was [Cesar] Geronimo, [Ken] Griffey and [George] Foster. They didn’t need Lou Barletta.”
Of course, the night was a remarkably Washington event. People held up signs that read “Winner gets Hillary’s personal server,” and many Hill staffers wore apparel supporting their congressperson. Think fraternity and sorority event shirts, but for politicians. There were a surprising amount of arguments with umpires and one play even went to review, sparking quite a few Supreme Court jokes in the crowd.
And even though the president made an appearance, the most fun moment of the evening came courtesy Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) the only woman on the field. Wearing a Roman numeral IX (for Title IX) on the back of her Norwalk Eagles jersey, a high school in her district, she came up to pinch hit in the sixth. She was playing in her 12th Congressional Baseball Game, having only missed one year in her tenure because she had a baby, who is now 6 years old, and was sitting in the crowd.
“I’ve gotten used to it over the years. I grew up playing softball, and I grew up with four brothers who played baseball, so I’m pretty familiar with it,” Sanchez said. “Watching women’s sports and if you’ve ever seen college softball, anything men can do women can compete on that field. And it’s just a matter of time before those women run for Congress. We’re seeing younger women running for Congress and so, I still hold out that in the next few cycles we’ll get some young talent in that knows how to play and well come out and represent as well.”
On the first pitch, she laced a single to right field, causing the largest roar of the night. The Dems went on to win 5-2 and break the series tie, while extending their winning streak. And on one summer night in This Town, no one was particularly upset to be on the losing side of the aisle.
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) June 12, 2015
— Zainab Javed (@zrjaved) June 12, 2015
— Heard on the Hill (@HeardontheHill) June 12, 2015