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GOP Prepared for Democrats’ Star

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call
Rep. Cedric Richmond surprised the GOP with his pitching skills last year. This year the Republicans say they’ll be ready for the former college athlete.

In the 51st Annual CQ Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game, the Democrats’ secret weapon is out of the bag.

First-term Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) took to the mound in last summer’s game and surprised the Republicans with his pitching skills, keeping the GOP hitless into the sixth inning and carrying the Democrats to an 8-2 victory.

But this year, the Republican team is hoping to be better-prepared for Richmond as it attempts to break the Democrats’ three-year winning streak.

Democrats say they are readying themselves to handle more balls in play.

“We had that element of surprise last year. Nobody knew how good Cedric was,” said Rep. Mike Doyle (Pa.), manager of the Democratic squad. “This year they’re preparing for it. I understand Mr. [Joe] Barton is employing pitching machines and college pitchers to get their batters used to seeing fast pitches. It’s going to make a difference. It will be a more competitive game. Cedric is not just going to simply mow everybody down.”

Barton, a Republican Representative from Texas and the manager of the GOP squad, conceded that the Democrats are the favorites again this year. But he said his team has been working on finding a way to hit Richmond’s pitches during practice and is ready to take on the Louisiana lightning.

“They have one great player in Cedric Richmond,” Barton said. “In the almost 30 years I’ve been involved with the game, he is the best Congressman to play in the game. We’ve had some really great players on our team ... but Cedric is young and in shape and a really, really good pitcher, so we’ve gotta figure out a way to hit him. And to do that, I’ve been trying to bring in some people that can throw the ball similar to the way he can to get our guys acclimated to it.”

Doyle knows he has a gem in Richmond but won’t cop to his squad being a one-man team. Even if the Republicans get good wood on the ball, he said, his defense will be ready to make plays in the field.

He pointed to Rep. Jay Inslee’s (D-Wash.) diving catch at first base to end last year’s game as an example of the depth of the Democratic talent.

“Our guys are pretty good at the basics and, more importantly, what impressed me last year was how well we hit the ball,” Doyle said. “We hit [Rep. John] Shimkus, their best pitcher. And in practice we’ve been smashing the ball. We’re hitting real well this year. Any time you put the ball in play, you force the other team to make the play, and if you force enough plays, they’ll make a mistake.”

Richmond, who played baseball at Morehouse College, was modest about his talent and agreed with Doyle that he was not the only one on the team who helped carry the squad to victory.

“People focused so much on the pitching, I think they missed the fact that we had 15 hits and only one error,” Richmond said.

He said that even with the high expectations placed on him after last year’s performance, he’s ready to take to the field and have a good time. “I just look forward to the game, period,” Richmond said. “It’s every kid in America’s dream to play on a major league baseball field.”

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