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2011 Preview: GOP Looking to Break Democrats’ Streak

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Indiana Rep. Marlin Stutzman tended to catcher’s duties during a Republican baseball practice in June.

The Democratic team hopes to extend its winning streak to three, while the Republican squad expects that an infusion of freshman talent will earn it the victory. The 50th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game is fun and games and for a good cause — but it is also serious business.

The game is the third in the current best-of-five-game series for the coveted Roll Call trophy. Ticket sales benefit the Washington Literacy Council and the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington.

Both sides are predicting victory. “We are up two-zip in this series, so we just need one win to retire the trophy,” said Rep. Mike Doyle (Pa.), the Democrats’ manager. “I’d like to do it this year.”

His GOP counterpart, Rep. Joe Barton (Texas), is equally confident. “When you have 87 new Members of your caucus, there’s a pretty good chance some are going to know how to throw one and catch one,” he said.

Among Barton’s new recruits, for example, is Rep. Lou Barletta (Pa.), who was a star center fielder for Luzerne County Community College in the 1970s and tried out for the Cincinnati Reds organization in 1977. When the Reds figured out he couldn’t hit a curveball, he was cut, but he went on to become mayor of his hometown of Hazleton.

The Democrats’ roster includes fewer newcomers, but one of them is Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond, a 37-year-old who played center fielder and pitcher for Morehouse College and was Benjamin Franklin High School’s most valuable player his senior year.

“Richmond may be the best athlete out on the field,” Doyle said. “He’s got quite an arm. He’s got wheels, and he can hit.”

Richmond might take over the Democrats’ starting pitching duties from California Rep. Joe Baca, 64, who pitched his team to back-to-back complete game victories in 2009 and 2010 by keeping the ball down and on the corners.

“I hope to be the starting pitcher, and I think I will be,” Richmond said. “But it’s a Mike Doyle decision.”

Barton said he plans to give 53-year-old pitcher Rep. John Shimkus (Ill.) another chance at victory.

Shimkus went the distance in last year’s 13-5 GOP loss. And as the starter in 2009, he gave up six earned runs before southpaw and former Rep. Adam Putnam (Fla.) imploded, handing the Democrats a 15-10 win. Shimkus is also the last lawmaker to hit the ball out the park, something he achieved in the 1997 game.

Barton said he will probably use Barletta if Shimkus needs a rest, provided Barletta recovers from a recent muscle injury.

“Unfortunately, my mind is 21, but my body is 55. There is a disconnect,” Barletta said.

A key loss for the Democrats is their starting left fielder from last year’s team, former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, who resigned last month. Known for his daring base running, Weiner scored the go-ahead run in last year’s game and made a stellar grab in left.

Also absent will be former Democratic Rep. John Boccieri, an Ohioan who played Minor League Baseball. He lost his bid for re-election in November to Republican Jim Renacci.

Retirements and resignations have hurt the Republicans, too. Putnam and another GOP pitcher, Nevada Sen. John Ensign, won’t be back. Putnam retired to become Florida’s agriculture commissioner, and Ensign resigned in April.

Before losing the last two games, the Republican team had won eight in a row.

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