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Scalise's return is highlight of Congressional Game

House majority whip among 4 who were injured in 2017 shooting
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- It would have been hard for even the best of storytellers to come up with a better opening act for this year's Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park.

It has been one year since the shooting at the Republican team practice in Arlington, Va., that injured House majority whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), an officer assigned to protect Scalise, a congressional aide and a lobbyist. A year ago, it wasn't certain if Scalise would survive the night, but Thursday, the heart and soul of the Republican team was back as his team's starting second baseman.

WASHINGTON -- It would have been hard for even the best of storytellers to come up with a better opening act for this year's Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park.

It has been one year since the shooting at the Republican team practice in Arlington, Va., that injured House majority whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), an officer assigned to protect Scalise, a congressional aide and a lobbyist. A year ago, it wasn't certain if Scalise would survive the night, but Thursday, the heart and soul of the Republican team was back as his team's starting second baseman.

With a crutch for support under hand and "USA" donned across his chest, Scalise collected the first ball in play of the evening, a grounder from Rep. Paul Ruiz (D-Calif.) that knocked him to his knees, and hurled a throw to nab his democratic colleague running to first.

Scalise's Republican squad may have eventually lost the charity game, 21-5, but it was a victory for the lawmaker, his colleagues and the spirit of the game as a whole. Using the support of one Democratic and one Republican colleague, Scalise walked off the field after one play to a raucous applause from both sides of the fan bases. It was a moment far bigger than the game.

"We have to give the divine intervention some credit here with that first ground ball to Steve," Rep. Jason Lewis (R-Minn.) told CQ Roll Call. "Wonderful moment."

That is the spirit of the annual Congressional Baseball Game between Republican and Democratic lawmakers. In a city where agreement is hard to come by, the game is a break from it all, and lawmakers from both sides stress its importance to break up the tension that can come with working in the U.S. Congress.

"It is one of my favorite nights of the year," Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told MLB.com. "So many of [my] friends and allies in Congress, I have through the baseball game. A lot of the Republicans that I've worked with over the years, I've gotten to know through playing this game. This is one of the unfortunate few things that bring us together."

Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), the Democrats' annual ace, pitched a complete game to hold his friends across the aisle to just five runs, giving the Democrats a chance to bask in the glory of their 41st win in the series, but both sides of the aisle will cherish the relationships the game forges.

"We really like each other. One of my first years in Congress, I blew the game for the Democrats," added Murphy, who had an error in the last inning to hand that game to the Republicans. "The next day, it was a Republican congressman who called me to see how I was doing and say I played a great game. It's the friendships that you make in these games that last and make Congress a little more bearable."

While the Democrats are now one win away from tying the overall series with the Republicans, the game has come to symbolize much more than an annual time to showcase each member's glory days on the baseball diamond. It's about coming together as a group.

"For all the attention it gets, it's not that competitive," Murphy added. "The stakes in Congress are a lot higher."

Zachary Silver is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore.