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Thursday
Jun152017

Democrats win annual baseball game one day after shooting

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The day after a gunman opened fire at a baseball practice for members of the Republican congressional delegation, the team carried on with the Congressional Baseball Game, falling to a squad of rival Democrats 11-2 in a friendly matchup amid concerns over the intensity of the partisan fervor in the United States.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., remains in critical condition after he and three others were shot Wednesday in Alexandria, Virginia, as the GOP team prepared for the annual Congressional Baseball Game.

A congressional staffer, a lobbyist and a Capitol Police officer responding to the shooting were the others struck by suspect James Hodgkinson, a man with a history of criminal run-ins who had regularly expressed strident criticism of President Trump, and who reportedly asked a pair of congressmen whether the group on the field was composed of Democrats or Republicans.

Hodgkinson was wounded in an exchange of fire with law enforcement and later died.

Before the game, Capitol Police Officer David Bailey, who was injured responding to Wednesday's shooting, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Bailey made his way to the mound on crutches before accepting the ball from former New York Yankees manager and current Major League Baseball executive Joe Torre.

In a recorded video message played shortly after, President Donald Trump expressed his hope that the lawmakers' shared patriotism would bring the political parties together.

“In Washington, we have our disagreements, but we all agree that we are here to serve this nation we love and the people that call it home. That’s the source of unity,” said Trump, before offering the customary, "Ladies and gentlemen, let’s play ball."

The Democrats emerged with the victory on the back of seven strong innings of pitching from Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., widely recognized since his election to the house to be the game's strongest player. Richmond also went 3-3 at the plate with a triple and three runs scored.

Congressional Sports for Charity said it sold more than 20,000 tickets and raised over $1 million for the game due to the “outpouring of support and generosity" from sponsors. By comparison, last year's game raised about $500,000, according to reports following the contest.

The charity also said the Washington Nationals opened up additional seating to accommodate a larger-than-expected crowd. Nationals Park seats 41,546 people.

The proceeds from this year's game will benefit the Washington Literacy Center, The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington, the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation and the Capitol Police Memorial Fund.

After Wednesday's shooting, a number of legislators spoke about what the game, billed on its website as "the only annual partisan event beloved by all," means to them and why it was important for the game to go forward.

"We're playing the game tomorrow," said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, the Republican team manager, on Wednesday. "We're united, not as Republicans and Democrats, but as United States representatives."

Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., the Democrats’ manager, said, "When the leadership of this country is civil towards one another, maybe the public will start being civil towards one another too.”

The Congressional Baseball Game traces its roots back 108 years to Rep. John Tener, R-Pa., a former Major League Baseball ballplayer who founded the event. Since then, the game has grown in popularity and graduated from local diamonds in the region to the professional field at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, and later Nationals Park.

In 79 contests listed on the game's website, the parties share an even record of 39 wins, 39 losses and one tie, with Democrats benefiting from wins in seven straight games from 2009-2015. Republicans snapped the streak with an 8-7 victory in the 2016 contest with Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., driving in the winning run in the game's final inning.

The teams honored Scalise Thursday night by wearing Louisiana State University baseball caps, a tribute to the whip's alma mater and home state.

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