Heard on the Hill

Scouting Report From Congressional Baseball Game Insiders

Texas Rep. Joe Barton and New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell share expectations

 
Republican baseball team coach Joe Barton, R-Texas, leaves the House Republican Conference meeting in the Capitol wearing his jersey with his son Jack, age 9, on Wednesday, June 10, 2015, the day before the annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Republican manager Joe Barton, R-Texas, praises Democrat Cedric Richmond's skills. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo) 
Q: What are your expectations for next week’s game?
 
Barton: "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. They have played better as a team then we have played. I think our team is competitive, I think we can win the game, but we have to field the ball much better in the infield and we have to get a few breaks at the plate. Although, we have been hitting Cedric the last couple years, he hasn’t been beaten because we weren’t able to get people on base and score runs. We’ve just made a lot of errors." 
 
Pascrell: "High expectations. We’re going to have our 16 or 17 or 18 guys and gals on the team. I think we’re gonna do fine. Coach [Mike] Doyle plays the best players but he tries to get everybody into the game, depending on what the score is. So, I’m very optimistic about it. We’ve had less practices this year than we’ve had in the last 10 years because of the weather and because of schedules. So, if the guys and gals — when they go home — don’t go to the batting cages, don’t throw the ball, this is to their detriment. So, they’ve got to understand that and got to know I’m serious about that."
 
Q: Why do you participate in the Congressional Baseball Game and how?
 
Barton: "Well, I’m too old to play. I played for five years in 1988 to 1993. I helped coach and our tradition is as one manager retires that manager picks the next manager. [Former Rep. Mike] Oxley picked me so I’ve been coaching and managing since I stopped playing. The baseball part of it is you decide who the starters are and who gets to play when — the batting lineup. On the non-baseball side, you have to coordinate the charitable activities.
 
"On the general manager side, probably the toughest thing I have to do is make sure all the players feel involved with the team. A lot of them still think they are in their athletic prime, which is not always true. And so you have to make sure that you listen to people."
 
Pascrell: "Baseball’s my favorite sport and I played it all my life. I became the hitting coach eight years ago. The fact that we won seven games in a row, I want to bring that to your attention. I wanted to be a baseball player. I wanted to play in the Major Leagues. It took me getting to Congress to play in Nationals Stadium. I looked around and said, ‘I finally made the Major Leagues.’"
 
From left, Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., huddle after the Democrats' baseball practice in April. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
From left, Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., huddle after a Democrat practice in April. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Q: How has your turnout been at practice?
Barton: "We just have a bunch of guys that like to get up early in the morning and come out. And it is a lot of fun. I’m not an early morning person but once I’m there, I enjoy it. Some of them, I think, come out just for that, just to be a part of the camaraderie and that teasing and everything that goes on — it’s fun."
 
Pascrell: "[Cedric Richmond] was there this morning and I told him 'You need the batting practice.' He’s a great ball player, he’s a great athlete, he’s a great guy. But if you’re only practicing hitting two or three times a week when the weather’s good, you gotta get to a batting cage so that you control your timing."
 
Q: Who are the players to watch this year?
 
Barton: "[Mike] Bishop of Michigan has looked really good this year,[Chuck] Fleischmann of Tennessee has lost of lot of weight, been working out and he’s obviously showed some improvement. John Shimkus, who played the game the last 20 years, has looked good as a pitcher. [Tom] Rooney of Florida, who was a little bit hurt, has gotten healthy. Jeff Flake, one of our senators, looked really good in practice. Rodney Davis, behind the plate, is a good catcher. Our team is a better team than it’s been in the last five or six years. Cedric [Richmond] gives them probably a plus three- or four-run advantage — he’s a great hitter and he’s a good pitcher. He’s a difference-maker. The good thing about the game is we really don’t have any sourpusses on either side."
Pascrell: "Our whole lineup is standout. The starting lineup is a good lineup, your placement in the lineup is dependent upon whether you get on base a lot, whether you can knock in runs. Cedric [Richmond] is an all-around athlete, as I said. Patrick Murphy is an all-around athlete. People have come along that when they first came on, we would say, ‘What the hell is this guy doing on the team?’ And when they’ve listened, they’ve learned. Isn’t that interesting? And they come to win, they come to play."
 
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