It was a historic night in Southeast Washington with a record-setting fundraising event culminating in a record-low scoring softball game.
The women of Congress beat the Bad News Babes of the press corps 1-0 Wednesday night, the lowest score in the seven-year history of the Congressional Women's Softball Game. But both sides of the diamond were appreciative of the competitive game, the beautiful weather and the sizable crowd of fans. Across the outfield, the bleachers were packed with staffers, journalists and other fans as they watched the journalists battle the lawmakers at Watkins Recreational Center.
Fans came equipped with signs rooting for both teams, with some especially creative signs referencing Congress' pitchers, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D. "Hit by a pitch? You've been Gilli-branded" read one sign, and "Throw a No-em hitter" read another.
The 7th Annual Congressional Women's Softball Game | The Highlight
Campaign T-shirts for members were spotted throughout the field, and even in the VIP section where members of Congress mingled and cheered on their colleagues. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., was spotted sporting an orange "Mia Love for Congress" t-shirt, complete with a blue bucket hat.
Love, a Utah Republican and freshman House member, said after the game that she enjoyed playing in the annual face-off.
"I got to meet some people that I wouldn’t have had the chance to actually meet," Love said. "We’re going to have our battles when we’re in the House but on the field we’re a team.”
The game did showcase some bipartisan bonding as lawmakers faced the press, with Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., high-fiving GOP Rep. Martha Roby of Alabama, after the second out in the final inning moved them closer to victory.
Though the women of Congress ultimately hoisted the pink trophy, they were evenly matched by women journalists, making for a competitive game with great defensive plays and a low score. The tight game could draw even more people to the field next year, according to Wasserman Schultz, one of the game's founders.
"It’s really great to be able to keep the game close, give a really good game for the spectators to watch," Wasserman Schultz said. "What it means is they’re more likely to talk about it next year and hopefully more people will come out.”
Wasserman Schultz noted the number of young women in the crowd, referencing the goal of the game to raise funds for the Young Survival Coalition, a group focused on young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. The game raised a record $195,000 for the organization.
"If we can reach even one, five or 10 women who now pay attention to their breast health that wouldn’t have if not for this game, then we’ve accomplished so much," Wasserman Schultz, a breast cancer survivor, said. "It isn’t so bad winning either,” she added with a laugh.
Yes, victory was sweet for the members, especially because now the game series is even at 3-3 after the journalists dominated the first few years of the game. And it was the second year in a row that the lady lawmakers won, meaning the journalists have to face another year of the politicians touting their victory.
“They’re going to give us shit for another year about this, so have at it,” Jill Agostino of The New York Times joked after the game. A team captain and this year's Most Valuable Player for the press, Agostino noted the top-notch playing by both teams.
"I think as a team, we played great," she said. "So I don’t know what we can do to improve. We were awesome and they were just that much better.”
The Bad News Babes took the field looking for some payback after last year's 10-5 loss, receiving a pre-game pep talk from ESPN reporter and breast cancer survivor Shelley Smith, who threw out the first pitch . "We’ve got to end it,” Smith was heard saying.
But in the end, the Babes fell short. As emcee Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., aptly phrased it, "We call it beat the press, not meet the press!” And beat the press they did.