Play ball! GOP, Dems to battle as 1: Team Scalise

Steve Garvey, former Los Angeles Dodgers player, leads a prayer for the Republican team before the Congressional baseball game, Thursday, June 15, 2017, in Washington. The annual GOP-Democrats baseball game raises money for charity. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans and Democrats fight for bragging rights Thursday in the annual Congressional Baseball game as one unit — Team Scalise.

The opposing sides are paying tribute to Rep. Steve Scalise, the House majority whip who was critically wounded when a gunman opened fire at a Republican baseball practice in Virginia on Wednesday. Scalise was fielding balls at second base when he was hit in the hip, and sustained grievous injuries as the bullet traveled through his pelvis and injured internal organs.

The players planned to wear some Louisiana State University gear in honor of Scalise, a graduate of the school.

“We’re going to play our hardest to win, each team will,” Pelosi said, “and throughout the whole game, we will all be Team Scalise.” She said “that camaraderie, I think, will be very positive as we go forward.”

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The game, which dates to 1909 and is a summertime tradition on Capitol Hill, is a rare example of bipartisanship in an increasingly polarized Washington. Aging former Little Leaguers now in Congress don their spikes and dust off their gloves in a game played for claiming top dog status and to benefit several charities.

The charities are the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington, Washington Literacy Center, the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation and, after Wednesday’s shooting, the Capitol Police Memorial Fund.

“Baseball is the American game, to be able to play it, and that’s why we have to play this game tonight,” said Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, who injured his ankle in the chaos Wednesday and will watch from the third-base coaching box. “It’s bipartisan, it’s a charity, for crying out loud, it’s in Washington D.C., we’ll be able to honor Scalise and those others who have hurt.”

Once a relatively cozy affair, played at a minor league ballpark in Maryland, the game has gone big time in recent years and has been played at Nationals Park, just a few blocks from the Capitol.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr., offered his thoughts and prayers after the shooting and endorsed the decision to play ball. He said he hoped the game would help heal emotional wounds.

In the history of the contest, Republicans and Democrats each have won 39 games with one tie.

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