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Teams Play for Wounded Lawmaker at Annual Congressional Baseball Game

  • Ken Schwartz

Father Pat Conroy, Chaplain of the House of Representatives, leads members of the Republican and Democratic Congressional baseball teams in prayer prior to the Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park in Washington, June 15, 2017.

The old rule "there is no crying in baseball" was not in effect Thursday night in Washington at the annual Congressional Baseball Game.

The event held this year at Nationals Park, home of the major league Washington Nationals, was an emotional affair, coming a day after a gunman opened fire at the Republican team practice, wounding four.

Congressman Steve Scalise, who was supposed to be playing second base for the Republican team, was instead lying in a hospital bed after being critically wounded in the hip. Also shot were a congressional aide, a lobbyist and a Capitol Police officer.

Injured Capitol Hill Police officer David Bailey, center, holds his hand over his heart during the National Anthem with U.S. Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa, far right, before the Congressional Baseball Game in Washington, June 15, 2017.
Injured Capitol Hill Police officer David Bailey, center, holds his hand over his heart during the National Anthem with U.S. Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa, far right, before the Congressional Baseball Game in Washington, June 15, 2017.

Both teams gathered on the field and kneeled in prayer for his recovery.

Capitol Police officer David Bailey, who chased down the gunman despite being wounded himself, hobbled out to the pitcher's mound on crutches to throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the game.

Bailey's actions helped prevent what could have been a bloodbath, officials have said.

The Congressional Baseball Game began shortly after it's scheduled start of 7:05 p.m. (2305 UTC) Thursday.

The game is a long-standing summer tradition in Washington, with teams of Republican and Democratic lawmakers competing on the ball field, even in present times, when fractious political debates are the norm.

Ivanka Trump speaks with congressional members before the start of the Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park in Washington, June 15, 2017. The game took place after a gunman ambushed a Republican lawmakers at a practice field in Alexandria, Virginia, on Wednesday.
Ivanka Trump speaks with congressional members before the start of the Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park in Washington, June 15, 2017. The game took place after a gunman ambushed a Republican lawmakers at a practice field in Alexandria, Virginia, on Wednesday.

​Congressional members decided Wednesday that the game would be played Thursday as scheduled, with one change. Instead of being played on the ball field in Virginia, it will now be held at Nationals Park in Washington.

"The members of Congress, the staff and the volunteers who were out at practice this morning care deeply about the causes they play to benefit," game organizers said in a statement released Wednesday. "We believe the best way to honor them is to play the game as scheduled tomorrow night."

Both teams will wear Louisiana State University clothing and hats in honor of Scalise, a representative from the state and fan of the school's athletics teams, known as the Tigers.

President Donald Trump said in a taped message to the players and spectators that coming together for a ball game a day after a tragedy shows "the world that we will not be intimidated by assaults ... on our democracy."

Democrat and Republican teams have put aside politics for one night since 1909 to meet on the baseball diamond and raise money for charity.

About 20,000 people turned out for Thursday night's game, raising more than $1 million for the Washington Literacy Center, The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington, the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation and The Capitol Police Memorial Fund.

The question now is can the unity last after the Democrats routed the Republicans by a final score of 11-2.

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