Fans of Washington Rep. Adam Smith cheered on the Democrat during last years CQ Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. The game has been played at Nationals Park for the past few years, and this year the team has gotten more involved in promoting the game and is assisting with game-day production.
Like any newer franchise, the Washington Nationals have faced challenges: finding talent, building a stadium and cultivating a fan base in a city dominated by two of America’s other favorite sports — politics and football.
Yet 2012 is looking like a banner year, with the team off to its best start ever.
But according to principal owner Robert Tanenbaum, a baseball team needs more than success on the field; it also needs to be entrenched in the community. For the Nationals, that means integrating with the local industry.
The CQ Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game has been played at Nationals Park since 2008. This year, the Nationals will transition from venue and sponsor to a member of the organizing committee in a move to strengthen its relationship with Capitol Hill.
“We as a team and as a family think that the Congressional game is one of the great institutions in town, and the Nationals will play as large a role as they can in fostering that tradition,” Tanenbaum said.
Last year, about 10,000 people attended the game. This year, Nationals management has more prominently advertised the relationship between the park and the Hill by promoting the event during home games.
Nationals’ technical crews will also lend a hand to ensure that the production values are of the caliber of a national sports broadcast.
Tanenbaum called the two traditions — Congressional baseball and Major League Baseball — a “natural partnership.” He said he hopes the increased visibility of the relationship will benefit the game, the Nats and the charities that the team sponsors.
Team managers Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) will serve as co-chairmen of an honorary Congressional advisory committee for the Nationals Dream Foundation’s Youth Baseball Academy in Washington, D.C.’s Ward 7. They will be joined by co-chairwoman Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).
Gregory McCarthy, vice president of government and municipal affairs for the Nationals, said Congressional support “will mean a lot to the young people who play and learn at the academy and their families.”
Double Home Games
The Nationals have attempted to brand the team as a beacon of bipartisanship, extending discounts to all government employees. Members of Congress have begun to hold fundraisers in the stadium.
But it is difficult to be the “home team” to a demographic that calls D.C. “home” only when Congress is in session.
Tanenbaum speaks optimistically about Members’ divided loyalties.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.