Players in Thursday’s Congressional Baseball Game say they’ve already gotten a win in the decision to play the game as scheduled, after Wednesday’s shooting at the Republican team’s practice in Alexandria, Virginia.
“We’re going to play, we need to play,” said Texas Rep. Roger Williams, one of the Republican coaches, who was present at the practice and injured his ankle as players scrambled for cover. His staffer Zack Barth was wounded in the attack.
“We need to play this baseball game. If we don’t play this baseball game and we go home, then they win,” Williams said.
A gunman opened fire on the Republican team at a recreation complex in Alexandria as they were nearing the end of their practice. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and four others were wounded before Capitol Police officers assigned to Scalise’s security detail returned fire.
The two teams’ managers, Republican Rep. Joe L. Barton of Texas and Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, spoke on the phone shortly after the shooting to discuss if the game should go on. It was ultimately up to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, but the managers suggested to them that the game be played.
“I talked to Joe Barton on the phone and I asked him how he felt,” Doyle said. “I told him that I would go along with whatever he wanted to do because I felt like we should defer to them. He said, ‘Personally, I want to.’”
“We’re united not as Republicans and Democrats but as United States representatives,” Barton said at a news conference Wednesday evening. “Play ball tomorrow night at 7 o’clock.”
Doyle told HOH it was important to play.
“I’ve always been adamant that we don’t let things like this change our way of life or routine or else we let people like this win,” he said.
Other players echoed that sentiment.
“I think it’s absolutely the right decision. Steve [Scalise] would insist upon it,” Texas GOP Rep. Kevin Brady said. “I think this is a tradition that has even more importance tomorrow now than ever.”
Connecticut Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, who plays on the Democrats’ team, said what makes Wednesday’s shooting more tragic is “this is one of the things that’s right with this town. This is a game where Republicans and Democrats come together and put fellowship and bipartisanship ahead of politics.”
Rep. Chuck Fleischmann seemed surprised that the game was going on when he learned the news from reporters.
“Wow. I’m going to play,” said the Tennessee Republican, who was at the GOP practice Wednesday.
Both teams intend to pay tribute to Scalise. Kansas GOP Rep. Roger Marshall got all the players’ sizes and ordered Louisiana State University jerseys to come in overnight for tomorrow’s game. The Democrats will be in white and the Republicans will be in black.
The security around Nationals Park, where the game is played, was a big question around Capitol Hill on Wednesday afternoon.
Doyle said the security is “good anyway” and “we all feel pretty safe.”
Brady said there will be “heightened security there and heightened awareness as well but it’s important for this game to go on for many reasons. … It will just take on a different tone and I think for many of us it will just be grateful.”
Despite the somber tone in the aftermath of the shooting, Barton jokingly proposed that since Scalise wouldn’t be able to play in the game, perhaps Democrats should sit his fellow Louisiana congressman, star pitcher Cedric L. Richmond, who has dominated the game in recent years.
“I said, ‘Nice try, Joe. I love you, brother, but during the game, we’re going to try and beat you,’” Doyle said.
At the news conference, Barton joked, “Mike said he loves us and he wants to show support, but that’s asking too much.”
Lindsey McPherson and Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.