WASHINGTON — The annual Congressional Baseball Game provides a chance for the grown men and women who lead the nation to dress up and play make believe like they’re real-life major leaguers.
For some, the game is the first time they’ve played organized — well, semi-organized — ball. For others, taking the field is like putting on a well-oiled glove.
Take GOP manager Roger Williams, who has the Pepsodent smile of a U.S. representative. His teeth once knew the stain of tobacco juice common to all ballplayers of a certain age, as Williams played in the minor leagues and coached his alma mater, Texas Christian University, in the ‘70s.
Most politicians are chatterboxes, especially when the topic is something electorally risk free, like a charity baseball game. But heading to the dugout before the first pitch, Williams was all business — laconic and cagey.
“I have no predictions,” he said when asked about the potential outcome. “All our arms are hurt.”
“But I’ll tell you this,” he added with a mischievous grin, “We’re better this year than we were last year.”
Williams might have overstated things, given the GOP’s 10-0 romp in 2022. Still, the conservatives routed the liberals Wednesday night, 16-6.
Before the game, Democrats’ first-time manager, Linda Sanchez of California, said she felt hopeful. Taking over from recently retired Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania — who was inducted into the game’s Hall of Fame alongside former Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas — Sanchez implemented more orderly practices and recruited a lineup packed with young talent — 10 on her squad of 25 were freshman. But despite some flashes of averageness, the Dems couldn’t keep up with the GOP’s offensive onslaught.
One of those rookies, Chris Deluzio of Pennsylvania, started on the mound, wearing a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform with his district number 17 on the back. Before the game, he said, “It’s been a great opportunity to get to know colleagues in both parties — something that I know is important to folks in Western Pennsylvania. And it was a real honor to rep the Buccos … while raising money for a good cause.”
The Republicans jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the first, and after briefly giving the Democrats some hope in the second by letting up two runs, they opened things up in the third and never looked back. Florida Republican and starting pitcher Greg Steube hit a ground rule double with the bases loaded, scoring two, living up to his reputation as the Shohei Ohtani of AARP ball. Two batters later, freshman Sen. Eric Schmitt of Missouri belted a triple, scoring three more and leading Sanchez to pull Deluzio. By the time the bleeding stopped, the Republicans led 11-2, and the crowd of Hill staffers, lobbyists, and fans of senior citizen athletics turned their attention to networking (and, for the younger, single spectators, flirting) with one another.
Democrats salvaged a little pride with three runs in the fifth, forcing Williams to retire Stuebe early and hand the ball over to Rep. August Pfluger of Texas. But it wasn’t enough in the end.
Williams matched his Democratic counterpart’s recruitment haul, adding nine freshman, including Schmitt, to his already large squad that officially totaled 39.
Tony Cardenas played right field for the Democrats, but the Californian was almost left out — security stopped the representative when he tried to head to the dugout because he didn’t have a field-access wristband. Cardenas had mistakenly handed it out along with a few others, thinking they were all for his guests and that he, as a player, wouldn’t need one. After a few minutes, Cardenas was allowed to join his teammates. (The goof was bipartisan — a few other members made the same assumption, including Michigan Republican Lisa McClain.)
Matching their reputation as a motley coalition, the Democrats took the field in a mix of pro, college, and minor league jerseys, whereas Republicans donned a uniform set of uniforms, with only differing caps as nods to their hometown affiliations.
In addition to winning their third straight, the Republicans reclaimed the Roll Call trophy, which is given to the winner of three out of the last five games. The trophy, named for this paper because it sponsored and organized the Congressional Baseball Game’s return after a short hiatus in 1962, last traded hands in 2018, when the Dems claimed it. They followed that up with another win in 2019 but then the pandemic perma-postponed action in 2020 — the same year Democrats lost their star players to the Biden administration, Cedric Richmond. The GOP won the following year on the back of Steube, who pitched and hit a home run in the 13-12 nailbiter, and then cruised easily last year.
The game raised $1.5 million last year for local charities including the Boys and Girls Club of Washington. This year’s total wasn’t immediately announced.