Heard on the Hill

Dugout Dish: Baseball Stories

Donnelly, Flake, Murphy and Brady recall congressional games past

This year's Congressional Baseball Game is scheduled for June 23 at Nationals Park. Heard on the Hill talked to members of Congress about why they play, what they expect this year and some of their favorite stories from games past.   

Democratic Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, first baseman, and Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, catcher, are going for their 8th win in a row  this year.    Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, centerfield, and GOP Rep. Kevin Brady  of Texas, second baseman, are working to break their team’s losing streak.     These four lawmakers are all longtime participants and they shared their most memorable moments from previous games.   [ Scouting Report From the Congressional Baseball Game Coaches ]  
North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler takes the field for the 48th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game in 2009. (CQ Roll Call file photo)
North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler takes the field for the 48th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game in 2009. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Joe Donnelly

"One of my great memories, or one that I laughed for a long time about, was our good friend [former Rep.] Heath Shuler, who played for many years. And Heath was the quarterback for the Redskins … and so in practice, he was launching one after another, after another. Not only over the fence but into the school and into the schoolyard. And so, word was getting out and ESPN was there and 20 or 30 of these media outlets are waiting for Heath to come out of the dugout.
 
"And [former Rep.] Mike McIntyre, who is also from North Carolina, is about my size. Mike, dressed in a University of North Carolina outfit with a Tar Heels hat on, comes walking out of the dugout. And they all think Mike is Heath Shuler, and they all are around him and they’re all asking him for words of wisdom. … They go, ‘Congressman, what do you think? Tell us? How’s the game gonna go?’ And Mike said about halfway through, he realized they thought he was Heath Shuler."
 
[ Dugout Dish: Why You Play ]
 
Republican players Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, and Reps. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Chip Pickering of Mississippi, Zach Wamp of Tennessee and Kevin Brady of Texas, bow their heads during a moment of silence at the 46th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game in 2007. (CQ Roll Call file photo)
Republican players Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, and Reps. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Chip Pickering of Mississippi, Zach Wamp of Tennessee and Kevin Brady of Texas, bow their heads during a moment of silence at the 46th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game in 2007. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Jeff Flake 

"The first two games I played, 15 years ago, Kevin Brady spent the last couple of innings in the hospital … not because he pulled a muscle or whatever else, but because of a hard-charging at the catcher. Be glad you’re not the catcher at that point." [turning to Murphy] Murphy: "I would have gotten out of the way." Flake: "But, anyway, it was a shoulder one year." Brady: "I broke my shoulder, dislocated it." Flake: "Seeing Kevin being carried off the field, giving the thumbs-up sign. It was great, like real baseball." Brady: "I’m still sore."
Pennsylvania Rep. Bill Shuster at the 50th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game in 2011. (Douglas Graham/Roll Call file photo)
Pennsylvania Rep. Bill Shuster at the 50th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game in 2011. (Douglas Graham/Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Christopher S. Murphy

"The last year that the Republicans won, they won in the bottom of the last inning on an error that I made as a catcher. I threw the ball into right field and three runs scored. And the next day, I was back in Connecticut, feeling actually pretty bad and pretty low about losing the game in front of several thousand people. And [Pennsylvania Republican Rep.] Bill Shuster called me to tell me that I played a great game and that I should keep my head up. "And he was in Pennsylvania and I was in Connecticut and I remember how meaningful that was to me. And it was a reminder that … we take the games pretty seriously. But in the end, it really is the friendships and the relationships that matter. "And the fact that I had made this friendship across the aisle with somebody that played on the Republican team — so much so that he thought to pick up the phone, find my number, and call me the next day to just make sure that I wasn’t feeling bad about the mistake that I had made — that made me feel pretty good about the fact that I had chosen to play in this game."
[ Dugout Dish: Love for the Game ]
Illinois Rep. John Shimkus pitches during the 49th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game in 2010. (CQ Roll Call file photo)
Illinois Rep. John Shimkus pitches during the 49th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game in 2010. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Kevin Brady

"One of my best memories actually is pretty inspirational. [Illinois GOP Rep.] John Shimkus was our pitcher for many years and really loves baseball and the friendships. He feels like we do about the game. "But he had had open heart surgery and he was recovering from it. Well, we had a senator who stepped up to pitch five innings, got called back for votes, so [he] had to come back here in his baseball uniform. "And John Shimkus, three months after he had open heart surgery, stepped in and pitched a flawless inning in that condition. And the senator came back and finished the game. "But I remember thinking, who pitches three months after open heart surgery? But he felt that strongly about the game, I mean, he just loved being part of it." 
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