It’s the last week of practices for the 56th annual Congressional Baseball Game and Republican team manager Joe L. Barton is eager for a repeat of last year’s game and notch another W for the GOP.
The Texas congressman played in the game from 1988 to 1993 and began managing and coaching once he stopped. He knows full well how an election wave can affect a roster. This year, the team has lost a few players and gained some.
Organizers invited actor Kevin Spacey to throw out the game’s first pitch, but the “House of Cards” star can’t make it. So they’re now looking to “Veep” and “Scandal” — specifically, actresses Kerry Washington and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Last year, baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. had the honor.
Ahead of the June 15 game, Barton spoke to Roll Call about his expectations, changes in the GOP roster and the Democrats’ star player, Rep. Cedric L. Richmond of Louisiana.
Q: What do you expect for this year’s game?
A: Well, we won [last year] so we’ve eliminated the psychological advantage that the Democrats have. We know we can win. Last year’s game was a competitive game and I think this year’s game will be competitive. It really is probably going to boil down to who makes the fewest errors. Their star player, Cedric Richmond, was just coming off surgery last year and he’s a lot healthier this year. He’s also a lot more motivated this year. He’s still the best player in the game and so there’s nine people on the field but he’s far away the difference maker. How we hit him and how he pitches is probably the biggest factor.
They’ll be a good-sized crowd, very energetic crowd. I think after the election of President Trump, Democrats are going to be motivated to be pretty active in their chants. By the same token, I think our fans will be just as motivated. It ought to be fun, hopefully a positive experience for the fans.
Q: What new players will stand out?
A: We have some new players but we don’t have any new superstars. We certainly don’t have a Cedric Richmond. Ron DeSantis, who had played two or three years ago, is coming back out this year and he’s probably our single biggest plus addition. He’s a good hitter and he’s playing third base and he’s a good fielder too. We lost Marlin Stutzman who ran for the Senate and got beat in the primary. And Marlin was one of our better players. So Ron is stepping into that. Trent Kelly from Mississippi is also playing third base and he’s hitting the ball really well. Trent was on the team last year. So we’re going to be OK.
Q: Which veteran players will stand out?
A: I’ll tell you who has looked really good in practice is Pat Meehan as a pitcher. We had an inner squad scrimmage last week and he was exceptional. He’s a year older but he certainly looks sharp on the mound.
Q: How has the turnout at practice been?
A: We don’t have as many this year [coming to practice]. We have several who are on the team but their family situations have changed so they’re not coming to practice regularly. Tom Rooney is still going to play but he’s not able to come to practice every day. Kevin Brady is chairman of Ways and Means and he had some cataract surgery. Between being chairman and the cataract surgery, he’s not been to practice.
Look out for HOH’s interview with the Democrats’ manager, Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Doyle, tomorrow and coverage of practices this week.