At least two Members will be taking their final cuts at tonights game, ending careers that spanned two decades, dozens of teammates and numerous injuries.
Although many more Members lineup spots will be tested in the November midterms, retirements will mean this is the last summer classic for Democratic Reps. Brian Baird (Wash.) and Bart Stupak (Mich.), two perennial standouts of the annual contest.
Ahead of tonights game, Baird said hes walking away with no shortage of memories. The Evergreen State lawmaker was on the winning side of last years 15-10 matchup, a contest that drew more than 4,000 fans and raised $140,000 for the Washington Literacy Council and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.
Theres really a lot of nostalgia. It has been one of the more enjoyable things Ive been able to do during my time in Congress, the six-term Member said in an interview. Its been one of the best sources of bipartisan friendships. I will miss it a lot.
When you really hit a baseball, its really an extraordinary feeling, he added. I dont know if Im going to be able to do that again. Its been a really special thing to be a part of that ballgame.
Baird said he once fractured his ribs during a practice leading up to the Roll Call contest and ended up breaking them on game day.
He also had generous words for his fellow Congressional short-timers and expressed optimism that his party will outdistance its GOP opponents tonight, a victory that would put the Democrats up 2-0 in a best-of-five series for the coveted Roll Call trophy.
People are hitting better this year than they have before, he said. We have the usual challenges with throwing, fielding and catching, but guys have been coming out pretty reliably.
He added: I feel optimistic.
Stupak, another veteran Democratic player, will also retire in January. A former state police officer, Stupak has had 14 knee operations, two since he decided to play Congressional baseball. The former junior college player said he was initially hesitant to lace up his spikes after he was elected in 1992, but he was nudged by his then-home-state colleague, former Rep. David Bonior (D).
I was always a good athlete, and it wasnt that I didnt want to play, its just that I was so fearful of injury to my legs, Stupak said. Im glad I was able to stay this long playing.
I truly enjoy being with Members of both teams, and theres nothing better than being out there at 7 oclock in the morning on a not overly humid day playing baseball, he added. Guys are out there ribbing each other, giving each other a bad time and building relationships with Members thats why many, many people enjoy this.
Veteran Republican team members Reps. Zach Wamp (Tenn.), Gresham Barrett (S.C.) and Adam Putnam (Fla.) are also retiring from Congress this year, but they were not on their teams lineup as of press time. All three have been running for statewide office back home.
Democratic pitcher Rep. Joe Baca (Calif.) said the GOP trios absence will be felt tonight, particularly the efforts of Mr. Hustle, his nickname for Wamp.
A great shortstop, Baca said. The guys got the ability.
The departure of Barrett, the Republican catcher, will also complicate the Republicans prospects this year, Baca said.
Hes going to be a loss, and the Republicans are going to miss him an awful lot. Its a catcher that can often make a pitcher. All the pitcher has to do is hit the spot, but the catcher is the one to make a lot of the calls.
Gresham had that knowledge, and its important, he continued. Thats probably what has made [Rep.] John Shimkus [R-Ill.] more effective ... Im sad to see him go.
Putnams curtain call will have less of an effect on the games outcome, Baca said. Known primarily for his speed on the base paths, the Sunshine State lawmaker in 2009 walked five and gave up six earned runs in one inning pitched.
Putnam? Lets just say theyre losing his speed, Baca said. I cant say too much about his baseball capabilities, but Putnam can at least run the bases. Hes got the young legs.