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Congressional Softball a Strong Tradition

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Tamara Keith of NPR attempts to tag out Rep. Kristi Noem during the Congressional Women’s Softball game.

Rep. Donna Edwards and her female congressional teammates didn’t pull out a much sought-after win against the female members of the press at Wednesday night’s Fifth Annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game.

But the loss didn’t stop the Maryland Democrat and her teammates from having a blast at the charity event, which raises money for young women diagnosed with breast cancer.

In fact, Edwards is already looking forward to next year.

“365 days to go, that’s the way I look at it,” she said enthusiastically after the female members of Congress fell to the Bad News Babes press team in a hard-fought 11-8 loss.

Wednesday night’s game drew hundreds of Hill staffers as well as members of the media, very important people, CodePink protesters and even a hot pink fire truck to the Watkins Recreation Center in Southeast D.C. for a light-hearted yet competitive game that’s quickly becoming a much-adored tradition among the Capitol Hill community.

The game raised a record $125,000 for the Young Survival Coalition, which supports women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, and was the culmination of months of organization, practice and Twitter trash talk between the members and the press.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., a breast cancer survivor who started the game five years ago, said the trash talk was a light-hearted attempt at building a better relationship between the members and the press team.

“We made a real effort before the game, leading up to it, to socialize more and to make this a two-team effort. And the press team stepped up this year, they were phenomenal, and it’s just been so much fun,” Wasserman Schultz said after the game.

Both teams had been practicing since April, getting together in the early morning hours in hopes of taking home the title “World Champions of Congressional Softball.”

The members were looking for a win after last year’s 13-10 loss to the Bad News Babes, and they were optimistic they’d come out victorious after recruiting freshman Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., both of whom boast impressive athleticism. And while the two played well, with Bustos capturing the title of Most Valuable Player, their addition to the team was not enough to propel the members to victory.

The contest was close through most of the game’s seven innings; the lead flipped several times between the member team and the Babes. But in the top of the sixth, the Babes opened up a lead that the members could not quite overcome.

Even as the press team took the lead, the cheering sections for individual members of Congress stayed enthusiastic. Designated hitter Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., had a particularly enthusiastic cheering squad of staffers who held up signs reading “Hit a Homer Heitkamp” and went wild as she blasted a hit into the outfield.

Many members of Congress also showed up to the game to support their female colleagues, including Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, who was seen waving a pink pom pom; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; and House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., who said he enjoys coming out to the game every year.

“I like the spirit, I like the enthusiasm of both sides. Nobody out here wants to lose the game, but at the end of the game everybody had a good time,” Hoyer said.

Winning is always a priority for Wasserman Schultz and her team of colleagues. But she said even a loss couldn’t dampen her spirits after Wednesday’s contest.

“I said at the beginning of the warm-up for this game ... that I wanted to win. But even if I knew we would lose every game, every time I’d still come out because the real winner is the young women who survive breast cancer. And $125,000 this year will go to make sure they can deal with it.” Wasserman Schultz said. “And we’ll get ‘em next year.”

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