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2018 Congressional Baseball Game: Steve Scalise returns, holds the day in midst of Democratic blowout

The Democrats won 21-5, but all that mattered was the first play of the game: a 4-3 putout initiated by Steve Scalise.

Members Of Congress Participate In Annual Congressional Baseball Game Photo by Alex Edelman/Getty Images

One pitch in, the result of the 57th Congressional Baseball game became irrelevant.

The first pitch that Mark Walker fired for the Republicans—some amalgamation of a fastball and a curveball—met the bat of Democratic leadoff hitter Raul Ruiz, who softly grounded it straight to second baseman Steve Scalise (R, LA-01).

Scalise didn’t move an inch, dropping to his knees and picking the ball cleanly before throwing it on to first base and beating Ruiz by a few steps. It was a 4-3 putout that was much more than a 4-3 putout: seconds later, the Republicans on the field mobbed Scalise at second base, engulfing the majority whip in a group hug.

The game occurred one year to the day that a gunman opened fire upon the 2017 Republican team’s practice in Northern Virginia, leaving Scalise in critical condition with a bullet lodged in his hip. Scalise, after a year of treatment, would have been the game’s story anyways; his presence and return to the field was heroic in and of itself.

Both sides and the crowd had certainly picked up on that: before the game, Scalise, on crutches and clad in a Team USA jersey with a No. 1 on the back, joked with friends and colleagues around the Republican first-base dugout.

When the public address called his name, the crowd erupted. He jogged out to second base as the game began.

Something was still implied, though — that Scalise wouldn’t be able to actually play, that even a year later, his healing process was nowhere near complete, that he certainly couldn’t play a full game.

And then came the throw.

As it moved through the air, a slow arc that nestled in the glove of first baseman Mo Brooks (AL-5), who brought his fist down triumphantly the moment the ball’s trajectory ended, those feelings evaporated.

They dissipated into a crowd full of people in hats with some form of the phrase “great again” on them, either making fun of or supporting the President — though nobody seemed to give the hats any thought at that moment.

Instead, Scalise rode his moment of glory into the dugout one batter later, exiting to a deafening ovation from both the first and third base sides of the field — where the fans who had self-separated as Democrats and Republicans sat.

From then on, the Democrats dominated the game.

Their total control began on the basepaths, as they stole more than a dozen bases en route to a 21-5 victory, though few in the Republican dugout seemed to be devastated.

Had Scalise not been the story, one-time Morehouse pitcher Cedric Richmond would have certainly commanded the headlines. His day included a two-run inside the park home run and seven five-run innings, a complete game.

Meanwhile, the Democrats—playing with a younger, and, much to the pain of the Republicans, faster team—teed off on Republican pitcher Mark Walker for seven hits and five runs in the first three innings.

The first run of the game came when Republican shortstop Jeff Duncan booted a ground ball that allowed a runner to score from second, putting the Democrats up 1-0.

Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) then singled, and Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08), who ran for the runner that reached on the ground ball, scored as the Democrats exited the second inning with a 2-0 lead.

Cedric Richmond singled home Pete Aguilar (CA-31), who had stolen both second and third in Richmond’s at-bat, giving the Democrats a 3-0 lead.

Tim Ryan (OH-13) then brought Richmond—who stole second as well—home with a single, before stealing a base himself and scoring, giving the Democrats a 5-0 lead at the end of three.

The Republicans began chipping away in the bottom of the third, as a booted ground ball scored a runner from second, putting the Republicans on the board, though Louie Gohmert, who was on first, stumbled over himself and ran into an out at third.

Ken Buck (R, CO-04) relieved Walker in the top of the fourth with the score at 5-1.

“I’m expecting that I will be so accurate that I will probably be able to hit their bats most of the time,” Buck said before the game.

Buck’s prediction rung true for the most part, aside from a two-out walk issued to Ruiz: every batter he faced made contact save two.

Ruiz, however, scored on a double by Aguilar — and after Cedric Richmond reached base on an intentional walk, Tim Ryan singled them both home, putting the Democrats up 8-1.

A few singles, a misplayed fly ball, a hit batsman, and a few walks allowed the Democrats to pile on, putting them up by the score of 10-1, though Buck escaped the inning with a strikeout.

The GOP offense did show signs of life in the bottom of the fourth — a collection of walks, singles, and outfield errors loaded the bases before Richmond uncorked a wild pitch that allowed two runners to score and advanced the other; a single brought home the runner at second on the next pitch, capping off a three-run inning.

However, the comeback was short-lived: The Democrats re-gained their nine run lead in the top of the fifth, thanks in much part to an inside-the-park home run from Cedric Richmond, a line drive that bounded towards what was once known as the Red Porch, evading centerfielder Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) for long enough that Richmond was able to complete a trip around the bases.

The Republicans continued to cycle through pitchers as the Democrats continued to steal bases and score runs; eventually, the details of the game faded into oblivion — Republicans watched alongside Republicans, and Democrats watched alongside Democrats. Each side had its own signs, its own cheers, its own accusations against the opposite side.

On the field, the players escaped from the game’s inherent tribalism; the most controversy came when they argued calls and occasionally ran into each other, most of the time with love.

Somewhat blissfully, the game ended after almost three hours on the dot, after the fifth Republican run scored on a wild pitch, and what would have been the sixth was tagged out at home after another wild pitch. Both teams were able to return to Scalise, who, for one night, had brought the two sides—seemingly impossibly deadlocked, irreconcilably different—closer.

In the end, Scalise’s putout overshadowed the game, which was likely for the better, given that it was a rather one-sided affair. The games don’t often turn into fodder for argument, but a double-digit loss certainly never leaves one team with a great taste in its mouth.

Scalise helped both sides forget the one-sided drubbing, and maybe it’ll transform into some sense of camaraderie inside the Capitol.

Then again, they were saying the same thing last year.