Louisiana Democrat Cedric L. Richmond learned how to play America’s pastime at the age of five in Little League. He went on to play in high school, in college for Morehouse, and then at Nationals Park.
And, according to longtime GOP manager Texas Rep. Joe L. Barton, he’s the best player to ever play in the Congressional Baseball Game. Thursday’s game could be anyone’s game as Democrats are going for their eighth win in a row while Republicans are working to break their team’s losing streak.
“I think the Democrats are still the favorite. They have the best player, in my opinion, who’s ever played in the game: Cedric Richmond,” Barton said.
Barton was an avid competitor from 1988 to 1993 and then turned to coaching before becoming the GOP manager.
But Richmond doesn’t play for the recognition, he plays to fulfill a childhood dream.
“I think anybody that ever played baseball, the dream was to play in a major league stadium,” Richmond said. “So we get to play in a major league stadium.”
He also added that the game is played for a good cause and that it builds comradery.
“I like beating Republicans. Or at least attempting to beat them,” he said.
So, what does he say to all the buildup?
“I think they are just trying to hype me up so I will get lazy and they can beat me,” Richmond said.
The last time a player had as much hype as Richmond was Oklahoma Republican Steve Largent. Largent was a wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks before joining Congress in 1994.
In 2002, he was inducted into the Roll Call Congressional Baseball Hall of Fame after leading the Republicans to five victories in seven years.
“No player was more important to the GOP squad than the ace right-hander, who resigned from the House in February to pursue a gubernatorial bid,” the 2002 game’s program read.
Largent started and finished six of the seven games, compiling a 5-1 record and 2.44 ERA.
On the other hand, in the last five years since he was elected in 2010, Richmond is 5-0 with a 2.85 ERA, 1.67 WHIP and 45 strikeouts in 27 innings pitched.
“I think it’s going to be a close game this year, I really do,” Richmond said. “Their hitting has gotten a lot better. Our pitching has gotten a lot worse.”
Richmond said his pitching is still affected by shoulder surgery two Thanksgivings ago.
“And, you know, every year I get a little bit older. And every year the ball gets a little bit slower,” he said.
Thursday’s game starts at 7:05 p.m. at Nationals Park.
Nathan Gonzales contributed to this report.