Throughout its long history, the Congressional Baseball Game has been a display of *bipartisan* camaraderie. Now, its symbolism will become even more powerful after a gunman opened fire on the Republican team at their practice. This year, the Congressional Baseball Game was meant to honor British victims of the two recent terrorist attacks, which already would have added a layer of seriousness to what is usually quite a lighthearted event. Although fortunately there were no fatalities in the shooting this morning, the games' participants and audience will no doubt also pay tribute to those who were affected.
Roll Call reported on Monday that British Ambassador Nigel Kim Darroch was slated to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in honor of the victims of and first responders to the recent terrorist attacks in Manchester and in London. “We are grateful to have Sir Kim join us to throw out the first pitch at the Congressional Baseball Game,” Republican manager Rep. Joe Barton told Roll Call. “As one of our most special allies, we stand with the British people."
There has been no word yet of any changes or additional plans for the game, but one thing we can all hope for is that the atmosphere will be one of highly charged solidarity.
Despite the tragedy this morning, the game is still an excellent opportunity for the country to band together, even just for the time it takes to get through nine innings down at Nationals Park. The history of the Congressional Baseball Game is a long and colorful one, beginning in 1909 and continuing up until now, with only a few breaks for things like the Great Depression and the Second World War. Descriptions from the first game back in 1909, which the papers advertised as “a mighty struggle for the honors of the diamond,” read like an Abbott and Costello script. Since then, it's only gained in popularity, and it's also become notable as a charitable event. The participants come decked out in uniforms from teams in their state or district, representing their constituents as always. President Obama even attended the game in 2015, and the game last year raised $500,000 for the Washington Literacy Council, The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington, and the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation.
Most importantly, though, the game has always been about giving members of Congress the chance to back away from all of the partisanship and politics on Capitol Hill and just play a little ball. The tradition and rituals surrounding baseball have always pulled out the best of America — just look at the reams of gorgeous baseball-related literature, or the mood of a crowd on a hot, breezy day, munching peanuts and cheering their teams from historic old stadiums or flashy (and more comfortable) new seats. Baseball is the most poetic sport, its slow, three-beat rhythm always keeping time on those long summer evenings.
And while it won't heal the partisan breaches that so deeply divide the country now, Congress could definitely use a little bit more poetry now. Dedicating the game to the British victims of terrorism was already an honorable thing for Congress to do — and now there will just be more reason to come together.