Of­ten di­vided, Congress acts as team

An­nual base­ball game takes on greater mean­ing af­ter shoot­ing

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Led­yard King USA TO­DAY

Repub­li­cans and Democrats took the field for their an­nual char­ity base­ball game at Na­tion­als Park on Thurs­day, con­tin­u­ing a trea­sured tra­di­tion of set­ting aside po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sions for a few hours of spir­ited com­pe­ti­tion a day af­ter a shoot­ing ram­page left a wounded col­league fight­ing for sur­vival.

The Con­gres­sional Base­ball Game for Char­ity took on a se­ri­ous mean­ing this year as or­ga­niz­ers and at­ten­dees said it was a chance to show the na­tion that more unites Amer­i­cans of both par­ties than di­vides them and that the event could not be shut down by a gun­man.

“I have some friends who are in­terns who were talk­ing about go­ing, and af­ter the shoot­ing, I mean, I have to go,” said Emily Cleveland of Danville, Ill., as she en­tered the sta­dium. “I think it’s a big state­ment that they’re still hav­ing it. I think it’s say­ing a lot be­cause it’s Amer­ica’s pas­time. It’s a re­ally Amer­i­can thing to do, to just go ahead any­way.”

A gun­man fired on the Repub­li­can team’s prac­tice on a sub­ur­ban Vir­ginia field Wed­nes­day, crit­i­cally wound­ing Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise and in­jur­ing three other peo­ple as hor­ri­fied

leg­is­la­tors and staffers scram­bled for cover amid a bar­rage of bul­lets.

Scalise, the third most pow­er­ful Repub­li­can in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, was shot through the hip and listed in crit­i­cal con­di­tion at Med­star Wash­ing­ton Hospi­tal Cen­ter on Thurs­day af­ter un­der­go­ing a third surgery.

“He’s in some trou­ble,” Pres­i­dent Trump said dur­ing a jobs event at the White House. He called Scalise a “great fighter.”

Law­mak­ers donned Louisiana State Univer­sity ball caps in Scalise’s honor.

Capi­tol Po­lice, who pro­vided se­cu­rity for the prac­tice, killed the shooter, iden­ti­fied by au­thor­i­ties as James Hodgkin­son, 66, from Belleville, Ill.

Be­fore Thurs­day’s game, Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can play­ers knelt to­gether near sec­ond base, where Scalise would have played. The crowd chanted, “USA! USA!”

The crowd ap­plauded Capi­tol Po­lice of­fi­cer David Bai­ley — who was in­jured in the bat­tle with the shooter — as he hob­bled to the mound on crutches and tossed the ceremonial first pitch.

Trump de­liv­ered a video­taped state­ment, say­ing the game is ev­i­dence that “we will not be in­tim­i­dated ... the game will go on.”

“Last year, we set records with $500,000 raised for char­ity and 10,000 fans, and al­ready we’ve topped $1 mil­lion in do­na­tions and sold more than 20,000 tick­ets” be­fore game time, said Sean Brown, a vol­un­teer with the Con­gres­sional Sports Foun­da­tion, which or­ga­nizes the event. That to­tal was all pregame on­line sales, and al­most half of it came since Wed­nes­day, Brown said.

“We’re in town be­cause we’re tourists, and I mean I heard about the shoot­ing, and I was like, ‘Wow, it would be cool to come to­day to show sup­port for the con­gress­men,’ ” said Otis Amick of Phoenix. “I think a good turnout to­day would be a good state­ment against what hap­pened yes­ter­day.”

Steve Pas­torkovich came to the con­gres­sional base­ball game — his first — be­cause he wanted to show sol­i­dar­ity and make a case for re­spect­ful dis­agree­ment.

“A lot of peo­ple in Wash­ing­ton want to make things bet­ter,” said the for­mer Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee staffer, who works for a tele­com trade as­so­ci­a­tion in Ar­ling­ton. “You may dis­agree about your goals, but we’re bet­ter than that. We make our ar­gu­ments and put it to the peo­ple, and that’s the way it goes.”

In a joint in­ter­view with CNN, House Speaker Paul Ryan, RWis., and Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the game was a sym­bol of unity for a di­vided Congress. “Tonight, we are all Team Scalise,” Pelosi said.

Ryan said he hoped the bi­par­ti­san show­ing would set an ex­am­ple and help tone down the coun­try’s po­lar­iz­ing rhetoric.

The con­gres­sional game has been a tra­di­tion for more than a cen­tury. The first game was or­ga­nized by Rep. John Tener, R-Pa., in 1909 when the Democrats pre­vailed, 26-16.

The game has been held al­most ev­ery year since, in­ter­rupted by ma­jor events such as the Great De­pres­sion and World War II. Democrats and Repub­li­cans each have won 39 times and tied once.

Louisiana Rep. Cedric Rich­mond, the Democrats’ star pitcher, said he and Scalise are close friends and work to­gether on many is­sues, but there’s an in­tense ri­valry on the base­ball field.

“We will miss Steve on the field,” Rich­mond said.

De­spite all the talk about bi­par­ti­san­ship af­ter the shoot­ing, Rich­mond said the game will be very par­ti­san. “We will go at it,” he said. “I know Steve wouldn’t have it no other way.”

The char­i­ties that will ben­e­fit in­clude the Wash­ing­ton Lit­er­acy Cen­ter, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Wash­ing­ton and the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als Dream Foun­da­tion.

“We will go at it. I know Steve (Scalise) wouldn’t have it no other way.” Louisiana Rep. Cedric Rich­mond, Demo­cratic pitcher


Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic mem­bers of Congress planned to com­pete fiercely but in a spirit of to­geth­er­ness Thurs­day.

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