Democrats Try a Little Hardball

Posted August 25, 2008 at 7:24pm

A handful of political types will be wearing pinstripes of another kind today when they take over Denver’s Coors Field for a day that combines two of America’s favorite pastimes — baseball and politics — into one charity event that allows wonks to fulfill every sports fan’s dream.

“A Day at Coors Field” promises exclusive access to the Colorado Rockies’ home field for Members, their families and staff, who can take a break from politicking to hone their pitching skills and swing techniques. The event, with a host committee lineup that includes sponsors Eli Lilly and Co., Microsoft Corp. and the American Chemistry Council, will raise money for local charities that include the Colorado Rockies Charity Fund, the antipoverty Women’s Bean Project and Treelink, a group that advocates for urban forestry.

“It’s the conventions, it’s baseball, it’s just a way to have fun in the middle of all the chaos,” said LeeAnn Petersen, who heads the Convention Baseball Group.

Diehards will have four hours to play catch in the outfield and get in some batting practice, and with Denver’s dry air and high altitude, some heavy hitters might even hit a few out of the park.

Minneapolis will also have a baseball charity event on Sept. 4 during the Republican convention.

Guests in both cities can take pictures in the dugouts and rub elbows with former players like Steve Garvey, a standout for the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres who will be in Denver, and hometown favorite and former Minnesota Twins player Paul Molitor in Minneapolis.

All the staples of a major league game, including free bags of peanuts and Cracker Jacks, will be on hand for an authentic experience.

Coors Field is the fourth park to host the charity event, which Petersen kicked off during the Democratic convention in 1996 at Chicago’s Wrigley Field while she was with the Dutko Group. The firm rounded up its telecom clients and partnered with the Tribune Co., owner of the Cubs and Wrigley Field, to sponsor the event.

The day at Wrigley Field, which included an appearance by Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, was so successful that Petersen put together a repeat event in her native Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium in 2000 and then again in 2004 at Fenway Park.

“We’ve been so lucky with the ballparks we’ve had for the conventions,” the Dodgers-turned-Washington Nationals fan said. “How could we not keep doing this?”

This year marks the first double-header with baseball events for both the Democratic and Republican conventions. Petersen is bringing the event to the Republican convention, where Members, staff and other invited guests will be getting in their hits at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, home of the Minnesota Twins and named for the state’s one-time Democratic Senator and presidential candidate. Proceeds will go to the Minnesota Twins Community Fund.

“We come in and invade these cities for an entire week, take over and what do we leave behind?” Petersen said. “This is a way for us to give back a little.”