Feb. 13, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

As Showdown Looms, Congress Hits the Field

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Rep. Joe Baca takes batting practice during the Democratic team practice.

They’ve also got something they hope the Republican’s don’t: chemistry. After weeks of practicing together nearly every morning Congress is in session, the Members are comfortable enough to poke fun at one another or yell encouragement from the outfield. Former Members and players, including ex-Reps. Jim Marshall (Ga.) and Bart Stupak (Mich.), have returned to help coach, too.

“Chemistry’s important,” Baca said. “You can have the best players out there and still not win, but if you have chemistry out there and guys that are willing to play together, a lot of the players will produce.”

Still, the Democrats are worried about the sheer size of the Republican team, which is twice the size of their 21-player roster. They’re also keeping an eye on Rep. Lou Barletta (Pa.), who played AAA ball in his youth.

“They’ve got some good guys,” Baca said. “But it’s like anything else ... you have to look at it from the perspective that everybody’s got to put on the uniform the same way. As long as you know that, it’s how you perform in the game.”

Still, Doyle recognizes the difficulty of managing such a large team.

“There’s so many players, you wonder how you get a good look at the new guys, and you wonder how you adequately practice the people you’re going to play,” he said.

Barton has a different coaching philosophy, Doyle says.

“Joe makes a real attempt to get everybody on his team into the game, and I just don’t play that way,” Doyle said. “It’s not Little League.”

At practice, however, he makes sure everyone gets a chance to bat and field at different positions. He’s still searching out a first baseman (Washington Rep. Jay Inslee has high hopes that he’ll finally start this year, after 15 years of playing).

“You see people at practice who are great, you see them put the ball out of the park,” he said. “But you see them in the game — they can’t even hit. There’s a difference to performing in between those lines.”

Still, practice has been going well for the team. Their practice field at Brentwood Park near Gallaudet University has fences nearly as far out as Nationals Park. Between Richmond and Reps. Russ Carnahan (Mo.) and Jared Polis (Colo.), the Democrats hit five out of the park at a recent practice.

After a strong hit Thursday morning, Baca came off the field smiling.

“That’s what you want. Those are hits,” Doyle yelled to him.

“The old man’s still got it,” Baca replied.

Republicans Ready to Fight
They won eight games in a row before letting the Democrats capture the past two, so the Republicans are in it to win it this year.

“We had a hard time taking the Democrats on the field, so we took them out in the draft,” Rep. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) said. With 42 players — 23 of whom are new — to the Democrats’ 21, the Republicans like to joke that their pickups in the House last election cycle will help them also win this year’s Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game.

“We spent $55 million in recruitment this year, so we’ve probably picked up some ball players,” Rep. Bill Shuster (Pa.) said.

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