WASHINGTON – A late single in the final inning from Concho Valley Rep. Mike Conaway wasn't enough to bring his team back in the annual Congressional Baseball Game on Tuesday. The Republicans fell to the Democrats 13-5 in the charity game,losing for the second straight year.
Despite the game's lighthearted nature,many of the players joked that its importance outweighed some of their work in Congress,and competitive nerves were on display.
“The butterflies started about 3 p.m.,” said Conaway before the evening game began. Conaway,a Republican,batted but did not take the field,one of many examples of bent rules by both teams.
“We've got a team that can win. We've just got to go do it,” he said.
Early on,it looked like the underdog Republicans might do just that. The seven-inning game was close until a late rally from the Democrats.
Members of Congress have played the almost-annual baseball game since 1909. There were gaps during the Great Depression,World War II and when legislators were too busy to play,making this year's game the 49th without a gap.
Teams are normally made up almost entirely of House members – only one senator,John Ensign,R-Nev.,played this year.
Proceeds from the game,held at Nationals Stadium,went to two local charities,the Washington Literacy Council and the Greater Washington Boys & Girls Clubs.
Over the years,the Republicans fielded slightly stronger teams,winning 41 of 76 games and winning eight straight before the Democrats won last year.
Some GOP players after last year's game blamed the loss on absent players such as Ensign,who decided to sit the game out after announcing an extramarital affair.
“We were missing a couple of guys last year,but we've got them back now,” Conaway said.
Although Ensign led the Republicans' offense with three hits and an RBI,it wasn't enough to stop a nine-run seventh inning from the Democrats that broke the tie game wide open.
“You hate to lose them like that,” Ensign said.
Many in the crowd were congressional staffers or family members of players who cheered when their representative came to bat.
Minority Leader John Boehner,R-Ohio,and Speaker Nancy Pelosi,D-Calif.,were there to cheer on their parties. Boehner was on the field giving advice before the game,and Pelosi joined the Democrats to accept the trophy afterward.