As a kid, Rep. Colin Allred dreamed of playing baseball on a Major League field. The Texas Democrat will get that chance Wednesday night at the Congressional Baseball Game, and he could add significant heft to an already loaded Democratic squad.
It hasn’t been a typical path for Allred — college football, the National Football League, law school, a job in the Obama’s administration, and getting elected to Congress to represent the Dallas-area 32nd District.
While it might be easy to dismiss his potential impact on the annual baseball game because he played linebacker, baseball was the congressman’s primary love for years. And he wasn’t bad at it.
Allred, 36, who was born in Dallas, grew up wanting to play for the Texas Rangers, even as a young boy when his skills weren’t refined.
“I remember I was afraid to swing, and my aunt offered to give me a nickel every time,” he said in a recent interview. “So I started swinging at everything.”
“I started getting a lot of hits, and she realized she couldn’t afford it,” said Allred, who later wore jersey No. 34 in high school, and even on the football field for the Baylor Bears, because it was the same number worn by his favorite Rangers player: Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan.
“I was a huge Rangers fan,” the congressman recalled. “Me and my best friend knew every Rangers player down to the Double-A level.” Allred was a three-sport athlete (baseball, football and basketball) at Hillcrest High School, less than 30 miles from the Rangers’ ballpark in Arlington.
He more than held his own on the diamond, earning first-team all-district honors his sophomore and junior seasons while playing centerfield and hitting cleanup for the Panthers. Allred started to get some initial attention from major league scouts, but as he kept growing, it became clear that football was the more viable path.
“My senior year I fell off a little bit, my body type kept changing, and my throwing motion changed,” he said. “I could hit fastballs all day. But it was well known in the district that I couldn’t hit junk.”
There was also college to consider, and Allred was looking for a full scholarship.
“It was not an option for me to skip college and try to go to the minors,” he said. Allred ended up earning a scholarship to Baylor, where he amassed 67 tackles in 26 games, before joining the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent following the 2006 NFL draft. He compiled 46 tackles in 32 NFL games between 2007 and 2010.
Allred went on to earn his law degree from the University of California, Berkeley. (He had deferred law school for the NFL.) He then worked for the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration, and finally as a civil rights lawyer for Perkins Coie before running for Congress.
After Allred unseated Republican Pete Sessions last fall, he got a call from a soon-to-be constituent and a onetime Rangers owner — former President George W. Bush. The two mostly talked about retired players and baseball for an hour.
Now, almost two decades after he set aside those early baseball dreams, Allred will take the field as a player.
“We’re going to have a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s a great thing we do on a bipartisan basis for charity. And it’s a good moment to pause and see each other as people.”
That doesn’t mean he’s above trash-talking GOP colleagues on the House floor. The Democrat has already threatened to throw fellow NFL veteran, freshman Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who played wide receiver for the Indianapolis Colts, out on the basepaths.
But even with bragging rights and pride on the line, some things are more important than the final score.
“He has some high expectations on the field and just looks like a pro athlete,” California Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar said of his new teammate. “[Allred is] a solid defender who will likely play centerfield and is coming around with the bat.”
“More importantly we selected ‘Big Poppa’ by the Notorious B.I.G as his preferred walk-up music because he is a new dad,” Aguilar added. (Allred and his wife, Alexandra Eber, welcomed their first child, son Jordan, in February.)
Also watch: The history of the Congressional Baseball Game