After winning back the White House and extending their majorities in Congress in November 2008, Democrats moved to the diamond last June to again show there's a new era on Capitol Hill, snapping the GOP's eight-game winning streak in the Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game.
Riding a complete-game pitching performance by Rep. Joe Baca (Calif.) and scoring all 15 of their runs in the second and third innings, the Democrats held off a late GOP rally to clinch the win, 15-10, in front of 4,297 fans at Nationals Park.
With the 2009 win, the Democrats carry a 1-0 lead into tonight's game in the battle for the coveted Roll Call trophy in the best-of-five series.
"It's our turn," Rep. Mike Doyle (Pa.), the Democratic manager, said after last year's game. "Unless they pick up some new recruits in the next election, we're going to do to them what they've been doing to us for the last decade."
The Democrats will need to develop a dynasty to even out the overall series, which the Republicans still lead 41-33. The GOP also greatly outpaces the Democrats in coveted Roll Call trophies, 10-2.
"We're going to have to scrape and claw and probably use our personnel a little bit better," Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.) conceded last year.
The turning point in last year's game might have been when the Republicans briefly brought in Rep. Adam Putnam (Fla.) in relief for star pitcher Rep. John Shimkus (Ill.) in the third inning. Putnam lasted just 30 pitches, walking five batters and giving up six earned runs.
The pitching move created a bit of a stir among some members of the Republican team.
"I obviously appreciate Coach [Joe] Barton's desire to play everybody and not take it too seriously," Wamp said at the time. "But I can assure you Mike Doyle was not going to substitute just to be fair to people — he was playing to win."
Indeed, Doyle never substituted on the pitching mound to be fair — he never substituted there at all.
Baca, his team's most valuable player last year, threw 119 pitches, struck out five batters, walked four and gave up nine earned runs in the complete-game performance. He was 62 years old at the time.
The two starting pitchers from last year are expected to be back on the mound in tonight's game.
Baca's likely relief pitcher, Rep. Heath Shuler (N.C.), disappointed in his only appearances in the 2009 game, which came at the plate. The former University of Tennessee and Washington Redskins quarterback went hitless in three at-bats, which Doyle attributed to Shuler's desire to "hit the ball out of the ballpark" and getting out in front of too many pitches.
But the Democrats still had more than enough firepower to carry the game, which raised $140,000 for the Washington Literacy Council and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.