Two Freshmen Standing Out on Their Congressional Baseball Teams

Roger Marshall and Jimmy Panetta are players to watch on Thursday

Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall pitches batting practice to his Republican teammates during a recent practice for Thursday’s Congressional Baseball Game. (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call)
Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall pitches batting practice to his Republican teammates during a recent practice for Thursday’s Congressional Baseball Game. (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call)
Posted June 12, 2017 at 5:00am

Just months after being sworn into Congress, two freshmen have established themselves as valuable rookies on their respective Congressional Baseball Game teams.

Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall, 56, joins the reigning champion Republicans as a pitcher. California Rep. Jimmy Panetta might break into the starting lineup for the Democrats.

“I think it’s more fun than I thought it would be. It’s a nice way to get away from it all, as they say,” Marshall said. “When I get on the baseball field, I’m about to forget about what’s happening behind me. [Illinois Rep.] Rodney Davis is catching me and Rodney’s kind of another hundred-words-a-minute kind of guy. It’s a lot of fun.”

Marshall played Little League Baseball growing up.

“But eventually, [I] had to make the choice between track and baseball in high school and chose track,” he said. “I coached all three of my boys’ Little League teams. So, probably about, gosh, nine years of teams for all three boys.”

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Marshall is making it to morning practices regularly and sees it as a good way to get to know people.

“There’s not much scheduling going on up here at 6:30 in the morning, so in terms of practice, there’s no excuses,” he said. “I met everybody but getting to know them is a whole different deal.”

[GOP Scouting Report Ahead of the Congressional Baseball Game]

And that includes Texas Reps. Joe. L Barton, the GOP team manager, and Roger Williams, one of the coaches.

“Of course, the most fun thing is just to see Roger Williams in his element. It is just a hoot to see him totally engulfed in the sport,” Marshall said. “Joe’s a lot of fun. Joe’s out there keeping everybody in there, making sure all the i’s are dotted, t’s are crossed.”

His children, who used to call him “Coach” on their baseball teams, are proud of him.

“They’re ecstatic,” Marshall said. “I pushed them really hard so they’re expecting the same type of performance from me. I’m sure at least my oldest son will be [at the game].”

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California Rep. Jimmy Panetta, at right in black with red cap, “can play baseball,” said Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Doyle, the Democrats’ manager. (Bian Elkhatib/CQ Roll Call)

Panetta, 47, could start — rare for a freshman — for the Democratic team in the outfield.

“[Panetta’s] in tremendous shape physically,” said Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Doyle, the Democrats’ manager. “He can play baseball. He hits the ball with power. He’s a great fielder, he’s going to break into our starting lineup. Generally, freshmen don’t just waltz on the team and start. Hopefully, if he doesn’t have freshman nerves, he will be a good addition to the team.”

Even though he’s a rookie, this won’t be Panetta’s first experience with the game: His father, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, played in the game when he was a congressman.

“It’s a little nostalgic,” Jimmy Panetta said. “One of my first trips back [to D.C.] with my father, I was in second grade, he was on the team and I actually attended a game with him at Orioles Stadium where the Democrats played the Republicans. I’ll never forget that and I’ll never forget going into the locker room.”

And the California freshman has stayed active on the baseball front.

“I kept up the game with intramurals in college and when I was in the district attorney’s office, we had a team where we played an annual tournament,” he said. “I played there as well as rec leagues during my time in San Francisco.”

But, the main attraction for Panetta is getting to be with teammates at morning practices.

[Mike Doyle’s Congressional Baseball Game Scouting Report]

“I met everybody that was on the team, but this definitely gives you the opportunity, gives you the time, to get to know them. It’s been great getting to know the coaches, Doyle and [New Jersey Rep. Bill] Pascrell, as well as the players,” he said. “What I learned early on in this job , you can’t put things off until the afternoon because you’ll just never get to it so it’s understandable that we have practice in the morning. Sure, it’s a time suck, but [the] fact is that it’s worth it to be out there and be with the guys and gals that are on the team.”

Both Marshall and Panetta said they hope to be back on the team next year.

“I have to keep my body together,” Marshall said.

“If I’m able, you bet,” Panetta said.