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America’s Pastime Meets America’s Policymakers

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Fans of Washington Rep. Adam Smith cheered on the Democrat during last year’s 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.

“We’re proud that every game at Nationals Park is a double home game. There is always a visiting team that is from a Member’s district.”

That has caused some resentment in the past, particularly when Philadelphia Phillies fans flood the ballpark.

This season, the Nationals launched a campaign to “Take Back the Park,” offering early-sale tickets to residents of Virginia, Maryland and the District during the opening Phillies series.

The response to “Take Back the Park” was felt both at home and away. Many Phillies fans interpreted the move as a personal challenge to overflow the stadium. 

“We ignited a rivalry that weekend,” said Andrew Feffer, the Nationals’ chief operating officer. 

Winning helps, too. 

Attendance was up 28.5 percent over the first 34 home games in 2011, the fourth highest percentage increase behind the Miami Marlins, who have a new stadium, the Detroit Tigers and the Toronto Blue Jays.

 “In addition, our total attendance has now surpassed 1 million for the season, a mark that was achieved in nine fewer games than in 2011,” said Alexandra Schauffler, communications and community relations manager for the team. 

Nationalizing the Nationals

When the Nationals turn to its market in government, the organization plays down rivalries and emphasize national pride.

“This is becoming the meeting place for Capitol Hill after a day’s work,” Feffer said. Nationals Park “is one of the few places in Washington where you see different parties join together.”

Tanenbaum said he thinks baseball has some lessons to offer Congress, and he sounds nostalgic when talking about what he considers the lost traditions of patriotism and politicking. 

“In the older era, Members stayed in town more and knew each other better. In the modern era, opportunities to be with other Members in an informal setting have been contracted. We’re trying to fill that void,” he said. “We are perhaps one of the last bastions of civility, bipartisanship and pure American tradition.”

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