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Posted at 11:12 a.m. on June 26, 2014
For the sixth straight year, Democrats proudly hoisted the coveted Roll Call trophy at Nationals Park — before running for cover from the rain.
But the ensuing thunderstorm did not dampen the Democrats’ spirits after beating their Republican colleagues in the 53rd Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game by a final score of 15-6. The game’s most valuable players were Reps. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., and Kevin Brady, R-Texas.
“That’s pretty special,” Manager Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania said about the Democrats’ sixth straight victory. “It feels good and it’s one of those streaks you don’t want to end but you know it will someday. So we’re trying to enjoy it while it’s happening.”
The score was certainly closer than last year’s 22-0 shutout, but by the time the game was called at the top of the seventh inning due to inclement weather, it was clear the Democrats had prevailed.
Democratic star Cedric L. Richmond spent the entire night on the pitcher’s mound. Though he threw some wild pitches, the Louisiana lawmaker also made some memorable plays, including a diving catch and throw to get Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., out at first.
But Richmond wasn’t able to show off his swing until his last at-bat, as Republicans intentionally walked the visibly frustrated Democrat four out of his five trips to the plate.
The intentional walks drew boos from the Democratic fans, who called Republicans “cowards.”
The Democratic and Republican fans were equally matched in numbers and team spirit. The stadium was peppered with matching T-shirts and partisan posters (supporters of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., for instance, donned “Take Me Out to the Paul Game” shirts).
The current House whips also got in on some of the fun. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., caught a foul ball while Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., just last week elected by his colleagues to become the next majority leader, was caught taking a selfie. Also spotted at the game was former Rep. David Wu, R-Ore., who resigned in 2011 amid a sex scandal.
Despite the humidity that hung in the air, members of Congress, staffers, journalists and other residents of “this town” were able to kick back and enjoy the game.
And though there was a lopsided result, the game satisfied players on both teams who have practiced each morning since May.
“My guys played their hearts out,” said GOP manager Rep. Joe L. Barton of Texas, “and we had two or three innings there where we really played well. And when we played well it was a competitive game.”
However, early on, it seemed the Democrats would dominate.
The Republicans’ starting pitcher, Rep. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana, who recently lost a race to become the next House majority whip, walked the first three batters and hit the fourth.
After one and a half innings, Democrats led 6-0, giving the GOP a steep deficit right off the bat.
The Republicans chipped away at the lead, and by the bottom of the third had narrowed it to 6-3.
Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., a veteran player, is in a competitive Senate race and he joked that a win in November could get him more playing time next year.
“It’s a sure way for game time. You see [Jeff Flake?] You see Rand Paul? I mean, heck, you see Joe Donnelly?” said Kingston, naming senators on both teams who played for the majority of the game.
But as the tide was turning for Republicans, Democrats blew it wide open in the top of the fifth inning. They batted through the order and scored eight runs with solid hitting to the outfield.
Rep. Linda T. Sánchez, D-Calif., had her first at-bat in the fifth, and the crowd went wild for the only female player, who sported a “Title IX” jersey. Sánchez hit a shot to left field to bring in a run.
Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., was sent to the pitcher’s mound in the middle of the inning, but the Democrats continued to rack up the score. Meehan was taken out after the fifth, creating a tense moment in the GOP dugout.
The Pennsylvanian threw his mitt and told Barton angrily, “I came to play, Joe!” — highlighting the tense relationship between Barton and his team. As Time’s Alex Rogers uncovered, recent losses have Republicans calling for their longtime manager to step down.
But Barton said he plans to continue his role on the GOP team. “I won’t manage forever, but I’d like to manage until we win a game,” he said after the game.
Despite the outcome, members of both teams said the true victory is the hundreds of thousands of dollars raised for D.C. charities including the Washington Literacy Center, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington and the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation.
The players also said the game gives them a chance to have some fun with each other outside of the partisanship battles in Congress.
“It was nice to see Republicans and Democrats smiling in the same place,” said Rep. Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., after playing in his first Congressional Baseball Game. “It was a blast.”
The game certainly ended with a bang — of thunder, that is. At the top of the final inning, with the clouds rumbling, the umpires and managers agreed to call the it for the Democrats.
Moments after they were awarded the coveted Roll Call trophy, rain poured down on Nationals Park, sending fans and players scrambling for cover. After most of the crowd had cleared out, a small group of players and fans were still gathered outside the exit as rain banged on the metal roof above them.
Then, all of a sudden, there was Meehan, walking forward with his eyes straight ahead. He walked calmly into the storm, glove in hand.
Wait ’til next year, congressman.
Correction 2:40 p.m.
An earlier version of this post misstated Rep. David Wu’s home state. He represented Oregon.
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