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Republicans And Democrats Come Together To Play Ball


Congressional Democrats played Republicans last night. This game is an event. It takes place every year. It received far more attention than normal this time because of Wednesday's attack on the Republican team practice outside Washington, D.C. Steve Scalise, one of the House Republican leaders, was among those wounded. NPR's Scott Detrow attended the game, which went ahead. Hi, Scott.


INSKEEP: And I gather you weren't the only person attending that game.

DETROW: No, 25,000 people were there. That is more than the Yankees and Dodgers drew in the games that they played last night.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) Wow.

DETROW: I don't think the quality of play was as good...

INSKEEP: Not necessarily - but, you know.

DETROW: But 25,000 people were there. You know, and it was a really emotional scene. A lot of the players were wearing LSU hats as a nod to Scalise. He was shot. He's still in critical condition. That's his alma...

INSKEEP: Oh, LSU because he's from - yeah.

DETROW: He's from Louisiana, yeah. And there were signs of support all over the stadium. It was a really emotional scene. Let's just listen for a few minutes.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Hey, hey, hey, ice cold beer and water, guys.

DETROW: A lot of the scene at the congressional baseball game is what you'd find at any other ballpark - the beer man, hot dogs and, since it's Nationals Park, racing presidents between innings.


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: It's any president's race now as they're passing the right field bullpen into the corner.

DETROW: Other aspects give a bit more of a tip-off that the men and women on the field are pretty influential - for example, lobbying groups and corporations airing ads on the big screen before the game.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: That's why we're paying it forward.

DETROW: More than anything else, the annual game is a bit like a fantasy baseball camp played out on a major league field and all that entails.



DETROW: That's the Arizona senator, announced as he ran onto the field wearing a Diamondbacks jersey. But last night's game also had a charged emotional atmosphere. The crowd roared and stayed on its feet when Capitol Police Officer David Bailey threw out the first pitch. On Wednesday, Bailey was injured. He and other officers confronted shooter James Hodgkinson. About 36 hours later, Bailey was standing next to Hall of Famer Joe Torre on the pitcher's mound at Nationals Park.


DETROW: In the lead-up to the game, many lawmakers reflected on just how vicious the nation's political rhetoric has become. Texas Congressman Joe Barton manages the Republican team.


JOE BARTON: Part of it's technology, and part of it is the way politics have evolved to the attack politics and the 15-second attack ads and things like that. Members are not looked at as people anymore.

DETROW: The Democratic manager, Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Doyle, says members just don't know each other anymore.


MIKE DOYLE: All the chances to interact with each other outside our suits and outside floor debate is few and far between. And I think it's - and Joe's right. When he and I first got here, there wasn't social media. There wasn't the Internet. But, you know, now people get information out of a fire hydrant.

DETROW: Democrat Dwight Evans and Republican Brian Fitzpatrick tried to take a step toward changing that last night. The Pennsylvania lawmakers sat next to each other behind the Republican dugout. In the first inning, Fitzpatrick hesitated for a moment when asked about the Republican team's chances.

BRIAN FITZPATRICK: I don't know. Can I find out what the score is first before I make a prediction?

DWIGHT EVANS: It's 3 to 2.

FITZPATRICK: Oh man, we're down already. You know what? I feel - I feel a comeback coming.

DETROW: I asked them how politics can become more civil when the two parties have such a deep, rigid philosophical divide. Fitzpatrick suggested a first step as the Democrats loaded the bases.

FITZPATRICK: It starts with how we talk to each other, everywhere from the kitchen table to the White House and everywhere in between. Tone is important. Language matters.

DETROW: Evans agrees, but says the process will be difficult.

EVANS: The issues that we have are very complicated. They're not going to be solved overnight. It's going to take a lot of time to drill down and deal with these issues.

DETROW: As the night goes on, the Democrats widen their lead.

That's Pete Aguilar, driving in a run - oh, two runs. Play at the plate.


DETROW: In the end, it isn't close. The Democrats win 11 to 2. But during the trophy presentation, Democratic manager Mike Doyle calls Republican manager Joe Barton to home plate.

DOYLE: Hey Joe, I talked to my team. And what the Democrats would like to do is to give you this trophy to put in Steve Scalise's office until he's back on his feet and healthy and joining us again. So here you go - to Steve Scalise.

INSKEEP: Wow. NPR's Scott Detrow, who was at the game last night. Scott, I really appreciate that. I'm thinking, though, many people think about Congress. They feel like it's just awful, and yet they're representing clashing interest groups across the country. And we heard it said there members of Congress don't know each other anymore, don't talk to each other anymore. Do they represent the country in that way, too?

DETROW: You know, you could argue they do. I think a lot of people who engage in politics view the other party as one-dimensional, driven by the worst possible motivations. And I think what a lot of lawmakers were saying last night was they're not suddenly going to agree. There is a lot of disagreement on basically every issue right now. They were saying we just need to talk to each other like human beings.

INSKEEP: Scott, thanks very much for talking to us.

DETROW: Thank you.

INSKEEP: NPR's Scott Detrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.