When the usually lighthearted run-up to the annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game was marred by a horrific shooting at the Republican practice session last week, Capitol Hill came together for an emotional night of bipartisanship and baseball. But one thing it did not do was make the players go easy on one another.
“I did tell [Republican manager Texas Rep. Joe L. Barton] that I love him before the game, and I love him after the game, but during the game, we’re going to play to win,” Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Doyle, the Democratic manager, quipped at a pre-game press conference. With the coveted Roll Call Trophy on the line, that was exactly what they did, defeating the Republican squad, 11-2. Despite the lopsided score, though, there were standout individual performances on both sides.
Louisiana Rep. Cedric L. Richmond went into this year’s game as arguably the best congressional baseball player of all time; on Thursday night, he silenced any doubters with both the game’s best hitting and best pitching performances. Donning a New Orleans Baby Cakes uniform to honor his hometown’s recently rechristened minor league team, the Democratic starting pitcher hurled a complete game (seven innings), allowing five hits, two runs, and eight strikeouts. With the win, he improved to 6-0 in his seven Congressional Baseball Games with a 2.38 ERA. His only blemishes were the six walks he allowed, but he remains the owner of a career WHIP, or walks plus hits per innings pitched, of a solid 1.43.
At the plate, Richmond paced the Democratic team with three runs scored. When he lofted the ball to left field in the fifth inning, many of the nearly 25,000 spectators held their breaths expecting a home run; instead, Richmond settled for a 350-foot triple, the second of his career. Overall, he went 2 for 4, which, amazingly, lowered his career batting average to .650.
The star of Team GOP was Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis. The former Yale baseball captain (and teammate of current major leaguer Craig Breslow) was a highly touted rookie in 2013, but he played in only one game before succumbing to nagging injuries that kept him off the field. Finally healthy in 2017, DeSantis flashed some of his star potential by going 2 for 3 out of the cleanup spot, both hits hard line drives to the outfield. DeSantis raised his average to .333 with the locked-in performance.
The Democrats benefited from clutch situational hitting in two of their three big innings. In the first inning, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan lined a hit with the bases loaded for two RBIs. After finishing the night 1 for 3 with a walk, the Democratic shortstop now owns a .474 batting average and a .524 on-base percentage. Two innings later, it was California Rep. Pete Aguilar’s turn to bat with the bases loaded. This time, the Democrat slammed a double to drive in all three runners — the first three RBIs of the usual leadoff hitter’s young career. Aguilar is now a .429 hitter after his 1-for-2 evening.
Colorado Rep. Jared Polis was the third Democrat to notch multiple RBIs. He drove in Richmond twice — with a ground ball in the first inning and a single in the third — going 1 for 3 overall. Polis now leads all Congressional Baseball Game players with 12 RBIs in his career — one that will come to an end after next year’s game as he leaves Congress to seek Colorado’s open governorship.
RBI chances for Republicans were fewer and further between, but a handful of batsmen did well to even knock a hit off Richmond’s fastballs, which have been estimated at 80 miles per hour. Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul each went 1 for 2, boosting their averages to .375 and .273, respectively.
Pennsylvania Rep. Ryan A. Costello may have gone 0 for 2, but he manufactured a run on the bases by leading off the game with a walk, stealing second base, advancing to third on a fielder’s choice, and scoring on a wild pitch. He now has a nice round .400 on-base percentage. Costello also wowed the crowd in the field, catching a line drive by New York Rep. Tom Suozzi in the second inning, then nailing Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly at first base for a slick double play.
Both teams’ pinch-running specialists, Republican Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee and Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, also padded their baserunning stats. Fleischmann scored the only other Republican run of the game, while Swalwell stole three bases. He’s now a perfect 10 for 10 in that category despite playing in only four Congressional Baseball Games.
After a solid start, GOP pitching ran out of steam by the third inning. Starting pitcher Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina went 4 plus innings, giving up 7 hits, 8 runs, 3 walks, and striking out 1. Relief pitchers Rep. Pat Meehan of Pennsylvania went 1 inning, giving up 1 hit, 3 runs, 4 walks, and striking out 1, while Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois pitched 1 inning, giving up 0 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, and striking out 2.
The only two women to play in the game, both Democrats, capitalized on GOP pitching woes. Fan favorite Rep. Linda T. Sánchez walked and pinch-runner Rep. Hakeem Jeffries scored an unearned run, and fellow Californian Rep. Nanette Barragán drove in a run with a single, both in the fifth inning.
But no one had a better game than the four capital-area organizations — the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation, the Washington Literacy Center, and the Capitol Police Memorial Fund — that benefited from the charity game. The night’s most impressive stat: more than $1.5 million raised for charity.
See the action from Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Games at this gallery.