July 31, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Republicans Rebuild, but Democrats Reload

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Murphy, a high-school pitcher who was slated to play at the University of Miami before he got injured, adds another strong arm to the Democrats’ team.

“To win a game like this, we have to get our basics down,” said Williams, who signed his first major-league contract for $12,000 a year. “Fielders have to keep the ball in front of them. Make sure the cut-off guys are in the right place. Make sure the pitcher throws strikes, no matter who it is.”

Williams was a star outfielder for Texas Christian University and played in the minor leagues for four years before getting injured. He also coached at TCU, where the playing field bears his name, and for the minor-league San Antonio Brewers in the 1970s.

But as the Republicans get reinforcements to face Richmond, the Louisiana congressman might not be their biggest problem.

As a high-school pitcher, Florida Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy was throwing as hard as 90 miles per hour (along with a slider) and on his way to pitch at the University of Miami on a scholarship, until he broke his shoulder playing football in the final game of the season.

Murphy, now 30, tried to come back from injury but was never the same, according to the congressman.

But facing top-tier talent is very different than a lineup of aging politicians.

If Murphy, wearing an Indian River State College uniform, is able to throw in the 70s and have a breaking ball, he could pose a ridiculous one-two punch with Richmond. When he’s not on the mound, Murphy will likely play center field and hit in the middle of the lineup.

“Who would have thought, this is how you get there?” said Murphy about playing in a big-league stadium. He and DeSantis certainly won’t be the only ones fulfilling childhood dreams at the game.

Southern Californians caught a glimpse of Democrat Raul Ruiz’s baseball skills when the photo of a 10-year-old Little Leaguer flashed across the screen in one of his campaign ads last year. Ruiz grew up to be an all-league third baseman at Coachella Valley High School, and the freshman lawmaker could play a utility role for the Democratic squad this year.

“Baseball was a huge escape for me and kept me out of trouble,” Ruiz said. He hung up his cleats after high school to get ready for medical school, but he said he had a blast waking up early each morning for practice when Congress was in session to get ready for the big game.

Even though the game is special, to many of these young members the practices have meant even more. The 7 a.m. meetups have been a rare opportunity to mingle with more senior colleagues with whom the first-year members don’t share committee assignments and get to know them in a casual atmosphere.

Now that the practices are done, players young and old are standing at the intersection of excitement, anticipation, potential embarrassment and injury. Williams, for one, hopes his congressional coaching career doesn’t meet the same fate as his playing career. “I hope I’m not the first coach in the history of the game to pull a muscle,” Williams laughed.

The 52nd Annual CQ Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game is Thursday at 7:05 p.m. at Nationals Park. Tickets can be purchased at congressionalbaseball.org.

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