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Partisanship And Pitching: Congressmen Square Off In Congressional Baseball Game

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House Speaker John Boehner didn't play, but he did spectate at the 2012 baseball game.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/speakerboehner/7466855884/
House Speaker John Boehner didn't play, but he did spectate at the 2012 baseball game.

Federal lawmakers will take their political differences to the ballfield on Thursday night at Nationals Park for the 51st Annual Congressional baseball game.

Democrats (36-38-1) have won in each of the past four years, and Republicans (38-36-1) say they hope one freshman lawmaker could help them break that streak. But the strategies of both teams may not reflect partisan ideologies as much as you might expect. This morning we spoke to the National Journal's Ben Terris, who has been following the story for National Journal.

The Democrats four-year winning streak is due to strong pitching from one representative, right?

The last two years they've had a young pitcher from Louisiana named Cedric Richmond. He pitched back at Morehouse College, and he is something else. When he is on the ball field, he looks like a real ballplayer. Nobody has a chance of hitting his pitches. It's only a seven-inning game, and [last year] he managed to have 16 strikeouts. The year before he had 13 and only one hit let up.

Why do Republicans think they have a better chance this year?

They have a new player, a guy called Ron DeSantis from Florida. He's only 34 years old, and he was the captain of the Yale baseball team back in 2001, so they have an actual ballplayer now. I watched them practice, and on the first pitch he saw, he hit at over the fence of their practice field in Alexandria. It was about 320 feet, I'd say, and it was a pretty good shot.

How do the Republican and Democratic strategies on the field compare to their political views in the Capitol?

It's kinda flipped in a way that you wouldn't expect. A lot of the Republican players—I won't name names—are angry at their coach because they say that he has a socialist baseball strategy where he lets everybody play instead of it being this free market competition tenet that Republicans usually have. Everybody gets a chance to play on the Republican team, much to their detriment sometimes.

On the Democratic side, Coach Mike Doyle from Pittsburgh is very cut-throat. He only plays the best players, even if you show up to every practice. If you're not that good and the game's on the line, you might not get to play.

Do disagreements between individual lawmakers inside Capitol Hill ever translate into rivalries during the game?

I think they take the game seriously but they know it's a game, but there is some overlap between what happens on the Hill and what happens on the field. The first time Cedric Richmond and Ron DeSantis even saw each other—at least this is what they say—was actually in a hearing a couple of weeks ago with Attorney General Eric Holder, and DeSantis, who's a Republican, was asking some pretty pointed questions and on the other side was Richmond asking for decorum. Afterwards, Richmond told me that they have some trash talk for the game: "Hey Ron, this is for the AG."

Ultimately, how seriously do lawmakers take the game?

Republicans and Democrats don't spend a lot of time hanging out in this hyper-partisan Congress, and here's a good opportunity for everybody to be out on the field together, and they're playing for charity.

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