Rep. Jared Polis, shown above being tagged out at first by Rep. John Shimkus in the 2010 game, is called J-Rod by his Democratic teammates. He is modest about his skills on the field but happy to be playing in the 51st Annual CQ Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game.
51st Annual CQ Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game Program
He shrugs it off as just a nickname. But his teammates don’t.
“Everyone on the team has a nickname; mine’s J-Rod,” Rep. Jared Polis said, shaking off even a glimmer of comparison with MLB star Alex Rodriguez.
Polis acknowledges his skill, even if he doesn’t tout the irony of being paired with the oft-reviled but Hall of Fame-worthy Yankee.
“I’ve always been a pretty good hitter. I’m able to hit for power and contact, and I played in high school and recreationally,” Polis said. “I’m a one-tool player, not the best guy to play shortstop, but I hit pretty well.”
The Colorado lawmaker is serving his second term in the House, and this is his fourth year playing for the Democrats on the diamond.
At home, he goes to the batting cages to practice. “I’m looking forward to playing on the Nationals’ field. Looking forward to another game and victory,” Polis said, displaying a youthful enthusiasm worthy of one of the youngest Members of Congress.
He’s used to being at the youthful end of the spectrum. He was introduced to politics at a young age by activist parents who protested the Vietnam War and nuclear power. At 16, Polis entered Princeton University, where he founded an Internet access company as a sophomore.
After graduation, he returned to the West. “I’d always planned on moving back to Colorado after college. It’s a great quality of life,” he said.
An Internet-entrepreneur-turned-education-philanthropist, he founded and ran a charter school back home in Boulder.
“Education has always been my passion. It’s what drove me to run for Congress,” he said.
One of Polis’ causes is protecting elementary school students from being bullied, a point of emphasis recently among gay activists.
“The Student Non-Discrimination Act makes sure that students aren’t bullied, and it’s critical to be able to make them learn,” said Polis, the first openly gay man elected to Congress as a nonincumbent.
On the heels of former Tennessee Titans defensive back Wade Davis revealing that he is gay, Polis said the key for everyone — inside sports and out — is not to create psychological barriers of their own.
“[There’s] never been a barrier to me, or in professional sports today, and we’ll see more and more professional athletes [come] out. More barriers are in their own mind and their own fears, [but] there’s no barrier to success,” Polis said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.