In Washington, House and Senate members play hardball in politics everyday, but on a steamy, late, spring evening in June, after months of preparation and grueling 6:30 a.m. practices, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle gathered around the diamond at Nationals Park to play partisan ball of a different kind.
It was the 54th Annual Congressional Baseball game, held June 11 – a storied political showdown that pits Democrats against Republicans in a time-honored fight for victory on the field – and later, bragging rights throughout the halls of Capitol Hill. This year’s game had been especially highly anticipated as the Democrats and Republicans were playing a tie-breaker game, each party entering with a overall record of 38-38-1.
Only one person could heighten the drama and excitement of the game: the President of the United States. Yes, the real president, Barack Obama, did show up at the game – especially when he needed votes for a critical trade bill, as a few staffers noted.
Baseball fans who attend Nationals games at the South Capitol Street stadium are used to seeing a few presidents, especially those racing presidents, George Washington, Tom Jefferson, Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Bill Taft.
It was a major surprise for the crowd of around 10,000 gathered for the Congressional game, when Obama arrived during the third inning, toting two dozen bottles of White House-brewed beer, reserved for the winning team. The president wore slacks, a dress shirt and black Ray-Ban sunglasses, visiting both parties’ dugouts and staying about a half hour before leaving, as the Democrats led 3-1.
While the Dems continued their lead, extending their six-game winning streak by taking home a victory after the tie-breaker was dispelled with a final score of 5-2, it was the recipients of three D.C. area charities who really came out on top. Though members play to win and bragging rights are coveted, over the years the ballgame has evolved into a fundraiser, raising money for the Washington Literacy Council, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington and the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation.
This game was truly a win-win for all, no matter your politics.