A report from Congress’ annual charity baseball game

Last Thursday, Democratic and Republican members of Congress set aside their political differences and came together for their annual charity baseball game.

The event itself is a lot of fun. For ten dollars you can see your favorite (and least favorite) members of Congress relive their youth at Nationals Park. Moreover, most of the crowd is comprised of the few people left in this country who still approve of the job Congress is doing – their staffers – so lines for food, beer and the bathrooms are nonexistent, and a good seat is guaranteed. Even better, this year’s event raised over $300,000 for three D.C.-area charities.

The event is incredibly laid back in a very… congressional way. Those who play in the game itself traditionally sport jerseys of teams in their home district or state, ranging from the Rep. Tim Bishop’s (NY-1) New York Yankees pinstripes to Rep. Raul Ruiz’s (CA-36) green and gold Coachella Valley High School uniform (Ruiz played high school ball there and currently represents his hometown district). The program tells you each player’s hitting, throwing and voting alignment, and is peppered with advertisements from various lobbying groups ranging from the National Beer Wholesalers Association to the State of Qatar. It also includes profiles on various players; one of them plays up the possibility of freshman Republican representative Ron DeSantis (FL-6), who played in the Little League World Series and captained the Yale baseball team, posing an offensive challenge to Democratic ace and former Morehouse College pitcher Cedric Richmond (LA-2).

It’s oddly refreshing to see members of Congress in cleats instead of dress shoes. It’s a bit easier to relate to them when they’re chasing missed throws and running laps during warmups, just like I did when I played baseball in high school. When they go back to work they can resume being the most hated class in America, but for these few hours they’re just a few old-timers having fun on the ballfield.

Nothing takes some of the most powerful people on Earth down a peg like trying to fit into baseball pants after years of luncheons and cocktail hours.

In the crowd, staffers for the members playing in the game travel in packs, often wearing matching T-Shirts or bearing signs supporting their boss, and go crazy when their member is up to bat or makes a play in the field. Some of the shirts and signs get pretty creative, ranging from “Young Conservatives are Fiscally Attractive” to “I’d Wiretap That.” Of course, Democrats sit on the third base (left) line, Republicans on the first base (right) line.


Democratic Rep. Adam Smith (WA-9) at bat, with his staff cheering on the “Adam-Bomb”

Heavy-hitting politicos and big-name representatives ranging from Eric Cantor to Nancy Pelosi casually stroll through the conglomeration of wrinkled office wardrobes, douche-y haircuts and obscenely expensive beer to glad-hand giddy, tipsy congressional staffers who try to get them to remember the last time they met (you know, at that fundraiser at that person’s dad’s house).

Congressional celebrity hotspots are marked by groups of young professionals rising out of the otherwise-sitting crowd. A staffer sitting near me mistakes a group of friends taking a picture for one of these hotspots, and regretfully returns to his seat after heading over in hopes of getting a picture with party leadership. During the sixth inning, I accidentally touched butts with Steny Hoyer as I politely got out of his way so the staffer next to me could be starstruck for a minute or two. Fortunately, when Charlie Crist came by I was able to avoid getting that cozy.

This year, for the fifth year in a row, Team Blue won. And it wasn’t even contested this time around. The Democrats scored five runs in the first and never looked back, winning the seven inning game 22-0. For the third time in as many years, Cedric Richmond dominated the Republican lineup and seemingly every Democrat, including the game’s only female player, Linda Sanchez (CA-38), found a way to hit the ball where the GOP wasn’t. As Hoyer quipped as he walked away from the aforementioned staffer, “My only worry is that next year [the GOP] will spend $10 million to beat Cedric Richmond!”

Sanchez, wearing an El Rancho High School Dons jersey with the number IX, in honor of Title IX, had almost as many hits (2) as the entire Republican lineup (3). She also recorded the game’s final out while playing second base. The look on the Republicans’ faces as they tried to wrap their heads around having their hats handed to them by a woman in a sport they didn’t realize women played was priceless. It wouldn’t surprise me if some of the Republican players got primary challenges for losing to a girl in baseball.

Members of Congress playing baseball combines two fundamentally American institutions with two polar opposite reputations. While Thursday’s event in many ways allowed baseball to bring out the best in Congress, as I waited for the metro next to two fratty staffers in their late twenties who were in the process of hitting on a twenty year old intern from a neighboring office (“Trust me, Jared’s not a DAY over 27”), I couldn’t help but feel that the culture surrounding the game brought out the worst.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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