Congressional baseball game has been played for years, helps charities
On Wednesday morning, gunfire erupted at a baseball field in a park in Alexandria, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C. The shooting happened at the site of a baseball practice by Republican lawmakers. The group had a game scheduled for Thursday night, playing against a team of Democratic lawmakers.
Friendly Game Pits Republicans Against Democrats
The game between Republican and Democratic lawmakers is an annual tradition that dates back to the early 1900s. Thursday's game at Nationals Park was slated to be the 80th meeting between the two teams.
One of those shot was House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana. In the House, the Majority Whip is an elected member of the majority party who keeps track of all of the party's bills that might become laws. The Whip also makes sure that all party members are present when important legislation is about to be voted on. Scalise has been an enthusiastic player in the yearly baseball game between parties since getting elected to Congress in 2008.
Game Raised Over $500,000 For Charities Last Year
The event raises money for local charities. The game raised more than $500,000 last year. The money was split among the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, Washington Literacy Center and the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation. The game allows lawmakers to engage their competitive athletic spirit while demonstrating their hometown pride. Attendance at the game regularly hits about 10,000 fans.
There are no uniforms given out to either team. Instead, lawmakers wear the uniform of the local professional or college team from their home district.
Respective Coaches For Each Team
The Republicans have two coaches. One is longtime manager Republican Representative Joe Barton, from Texas. The other is Republican Representative Roger Williams from Texas, who is a recent arrival to Congress. Williams was once a star baseball player at Texas Christian University and later coached the team there. One of those shot Wednesday was a staffer for Williams.
The Democratic manager is Democratic Representative Mike Doyle, from Pennsylvania. His squad had won seven straight games until last year's narrow loss. The overall series between Republican and Democratic teams is deadlocked at 39 wins each. There was just one tie game.
The teams have a group of assistant coaches. These coaches include congressional aides, former aides and lobbyists who have expertise in the game. The game itself is played in a highly secure environment. Fans must pass through the magnetometers, or metal detectors, to get into the stadium. However, the practices are not considered a secure event.
Injured Lawmaker's Security Team Took Down Shooter
The only reason Capitol Police were on hand Wednesday to take down the shooter was because Scalise is the third-ranking member of House Republican leadership. That post that comes with a security team that follows him most places.
Held every summer, practice for the game usually begins about two months or more ahead of the game, which can become a deeply competitive battle. Republicans and their fans sit on the first base side of Nationals Park, while Democrats take the third base side of the field and stands.
Two years ago, President Barack Obama attended a few innings of the game, staying in the dugouts with each team briefly.