After two consecutive losses to Louisiana Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, the ace of the Democrats’ pitching staff, Republicans are rebuilding. But unfortunately for the GOP, Democrats might be reloading.
Much of the potential Republican revival rides on the bat and the arm of freshman Rep. Ron DeSantis. The 34-year-old Florida native grew up playing baseball, played in the Little League World Series and went on to captain the Yale baseball team.
“I haven’t really picked up a ball or bat in 10 years,” DeSantis said in an interview this spring. But he was confident his swing would be ready for the 52nd Annual CQ Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. “When you play the game from the time you were 3, that muscle memory is still there.”
Republicans will need all the help they can get.
In 2011, Richmond pitched a seven-inning complete game, striking out 13 Republicans, walking five, and giving up just one hit and one earned run. He followed up his performance with another complete game last year, with 16 strikeouts and two walks, giving up four earned runs on nine hits.
But DeSantis is no stranger to tough pitching matchups.
He led his high-school team to a playoff victory over phenom (and future major leaguer) Rick Ankiel, who was 13-0 with a 0.00 earned run average before the DeSantis-led squad won.
This year, the career outfielder might be asked to move to the mound, where Republicans can optimize his youth and experience. Republican pitchers have given up 17 earned runs over the past two years, thanks in part to a dozen walks and hitting two batters.
Even though DeSantis, who will wear a Stetson University uniform from Florida’s 6th District, hasn’t pitched since he coached high-school baseball before law school, he is getting advice from the big leagues.
“Work fast and throw strikes,” said Craig Breslow, a left-handed relief pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, passing on the advice that their coach at Yale gave him in college. Breslow contributed $2,500 to his former teammate’s campaign last year.
“It was evident early on that RD would be successful regardless of the path he chose,” Breslow told CQ Roll Call. “How ironic it is that he is able to marry his love for baseball with his career in politics?”
DeSantis isn’t the only new member to find his two passions colliding.
Forty-two years after being drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 25th round, Roger Williams will take the field at a major-league stadium. But the 63-year-old freshman lawmaker won’t be playing. Instead, he’ll be an assistant coach to his Texas colleague, Rep. Joe L. Barton, the manager of the GOP squad.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.