Democrats won the annual Congressional baseball game Thursday night, but this year the focus of the charity event had nothing to do with winners or losers, as the main goal was to show unity after the attack on Wednesday, when a gunman stalked the suburban baseball field where members of the Republican team were practicing.
He fired several rounds, hitting four people, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, The Hill reports.
The tragic event hung like a cloud over the players and the crowd. Thousands came out in show of solidarity, defiance and hope that Scalise’s road to full health will be swift and complete. Game organizers said nearly 25,000 people attended the event, raising about $1.5 million for local charities and the Capitol Police Memorial Fund.
Representative Roger Williams, who had injured an ankle at Wednesday’s practice racing away from the shooter, joined the lineup on crutches. And David Bailey, the Capitol Police officer injured in the exchange of bullets that left the assailant dead, threw out the first pitch.
After the sides were introduced, Scalise’s name was announced and his image was projected on the enormous screen looming over the buzzing crowd. The standing ovation was immediate and the signs commemorating the injured majority whip came out in force. “Scalise Strong,” was the simple message on many of them.
Minutes before the beginning, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said it was important to members that the show goes on. “It’s sad, but it’s good we’re doing it,” he said.
President Donald Trump, speaking by video call, emphasized the tragic circumstances and praised the teams for their resolve.
“By playing tonight, you are showing the world that we will not be intimidated by threats, acts of violence, or assaults on our Democracy. The game will go on”, Trump said.
Both chambers of Congress had recessed for the week on Thursday, but hundreds of lawmakers stuck around in Washington for a chance to be part of the game, played at Nationals Park near Washington’s Navy Yard.
House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi staged an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper at the stadium, where the two leaders shed their adversarial talking points in a show of bipartisan friendship. Schumer and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared together in a similar show of unity.
Trump did not attend the event. However, his daughter Ivanka was present along with Trump’s Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin. The two of them donated $50,000 to the charity from the “Friends in the Trump administration”.