March 28, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER
Roll Call

Lou Barletta Brings Experience to the GOP Side

Bill Clark/Roll Call
At age 21, Rep. Lou Barletta tried out for the Cincinnati Reds. He didn’t make it and instead returned to his hometown of Hazleton, Pa., and eventually became mayor.

Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) is a freshman on the House floor, but on the baseball field, hes a veteran.

At age 21, Barletta was a good enough ballplayer to snag one of 65 spots to try out for the Cincinnati Reds, the fabled Big Red Machine of the 1970s. He didnt make it.

But scouts were sufficiently impressed, suggesting he take a shot with one of the two expansion organizations getting started at the time the Toronto Blue Jays or the Seattle Mariners.

Instead, he went home to Hazleton, Pa., to work for his familys construction business, and he eventually opened his own business and served as mayor of his hometown.

Thats one of the things I regret, Barletta said of choosing to return home rather than pursue his baseball dreams. Life took me in a different way. But I probably wouldnt be in Congress today if I went there.

Although he hasnt played baseball since his tryout with the Reds, Barletta went on to play fast-pitch softball for almost 20 years on a team that won a state championship. He said that despite the toll time might have taken on his physical abilities, one thing that hasnt changed is his desire to win.

The problem Ive found is that my mind is still 21 and my bodys 55, so its very easy to pull a muscle and get hurt, he said. But the competitive drive that I had, thats here today, so [the game is] going to be a lot of fun.

As a child, Barletta idolized Mickey Mantle and tried to model himself after the Yankee legend. Like Mantle, Barletta became a switch-hitter and played center field; like Mantle, he wore No. 7. Hell again play center field for the GOP, and team coach Rep. Joe Barton (Texas) expects him to also spell Rep. John Shimkus (Ill.) on the mound.

Hes good, but hes a little banged up, Barton said of Barletta, who has been practicing with a pulled muscle. Hes a left-hander, and hes got good movement on his curveball.

Barletta said he hopes to get the chance to pitch and is working on his control and a few different pitches in preparation. Despite the pulled muscles, Barletta said theres nowhere else he would rather be.

Theres not a better way to start the day than putting on a baseball glove at 7 oclock in the morning. Im getting one more shot at my dream, he said before heading up to bat at one practice.

I dont want it to end, he added. I wish we could play all year.

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