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Swearing-In Is Akin to Draft Day For Rivals

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Wasserman Schultz, center, helped found the Congressional Women’s Softball Game several years ago to promote bipartisanship and a breast cancer charity, the Young Survival Coalition.

The pair has done much to cultivate within their ranks an appreciation for hurling insults at the other side.

“There’s real trash talk in the hallways,” Bash bragged in an interview in front of her TV liveshot at the Capitol.

Two such incidents occurred over the holidays. When Babes first baseman Kasie Hunt landed a new job at NBC News, Wasserman Schultz tweeted a note of congratulations that included the inevitable softball taunt.

And another Babe circulated a holiday card with a photo of a violent home-plate collision between herself and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.

‘A Nice Assassin’

But the most intense personal rivalry is between Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. Both are co-captains and both, like Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez of “The Sandlot,” are known to direct plays and buck up teammates during low moments.

They have known each other since the 2006 cycle. As a Cook Political Report editor, Walter was one of the first reporters in Washington to interview Gillibrand when she was an unknown House candidate.

Both avoid the Twitter taunt bait and reserve their competitive natures for the field. To them, it’s not about winning. It is about not losing.

Walter is also a former editor at National Journal’s The Hotline — a breeding ground of budding political reporters. During her tenure there, she earned a reputation within a certain generation of journalists as one of the kindest, most generous power players in town.

On game day, Walter might as well be an assassin.

“A nice assassin,” Walter corrected. “I truly don’t want to injure anyone.”

Likewise, Gillibrand has cultivated a bubbly image and is rarely seen in public without a smile.

As her team’s pitcher, Gillibrand has a tendency to saunter her way around the mound. Her icy blue gaze is enough to scare the hell out of former high school varsity letterwomen. At bat, she has been known to sarcastically blow kisses at Walter playing shortstop. And the Empire State’s junior senator clucked like a chicken when the reporter team opted for an intentional walk in 2011.

No Crying in Softball

Antics aside, this is not Little League. In the worlds of adulthood and politics, outside factors can have profound implications for each team’s lineup. Every two years, the members’ roster faces a shake-up with elections. As for the reporters, the continued instability of journalism has meant their roster has been nearly as fluid.

One major loss to the member team is within its leadership. Former team captain Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., announced in December that she was resigning from Congress in February. Her daughter, Tori, is their team’s coach. Wasserman Schultz swiftly moved into action upon hearing the announcement and asked the younger Emerson to remain in her role.

The reporter roster has its own annual complications.

“They lose people due to elections,” Walter said. “We lose people to pregnancy.”

The Bad News Babes found itself in serious trouble last year when their ace pitcher, Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown, was on the disabled/maternity list. And there are other pregnancies this year that are of concern to team leadership.

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