Practically every team in the history of organized sports has its own Rudy — the player not blessed with the most athletic skill but who stands apart for pure devotion.
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick plays that role on the Congressional Women's Softball team.
"Ann is the heart of our team," said Captain Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.
It was not that way the past couple of years. Kirkpatrick was on the team in its earliest days, as female members of Congress battled the women of the Washington press corps.
But when she lost re-election in 2010, the Arizona Democrat also lost her place on the team for the 2011 and 2012 seasons. On Swearing-In Day 2013, the returning congresswoman confirmed to CQ Roll Call that she was not just back to Congress — she was back to softball.
Both teams feature flamboyant personalities and former high-school athletes with terrifying competitive streaks, specifically the junior senator from New York (Kirsten Gillibrand), the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz) and this byline.
But Kirkpatrick has earned quiet respect for simply showing up to practice day in, day out.
"I’m not a very good player at all, but I like being part of the team," Kirkpatrick said of her determination in a Wednesday interview. "I just enjoy the practices."
To the best of everyone's record keeping, Kirkpatrick has the best attendance record in the league. In two months of 7 a.m. practices, she has missed only one.
"I don’t think it’s quite perfect," she corrected this reporter when asked about her record, citing her daughter's graduation for her one absence.
According to Capito, Kirkpatrick's hitting came alive earlier this week when her husband accompanied her to practice. He is now dubbed the lucky charm and her teammates have demanded his attendance at the big game on June 26.
But team sources are further struck by the rough commute she faces to get to the Capitol Hill practice field. Kirkpatrick is out the door at 6:15 a.m., headed into town from her Virginia apartment via Metro. She then catches a transfer and walks the rest of the way to the field.
It is a weirdly normal thing for a member of Congress to do several times a week.
"I enjoy the camaraderie," she said on what motivates her. "I enjoy some of the funny things that we do. I just like being there."
Tickets for the game can be purchased here. This year, the game is expected to have a record-breaking fundraising on behalf of its breast cancer charity,
. This year, the game is expected to have a record-breaking fundraising on behalf of its breast cancer charity, the Young Survival Coalition.
Disclosure: The author of this post is a co-captain of the Bad News Babes, the press team.