Heard on the Hill

Bipartisanship Continues to Show Strength in Congressional Softball Game

Members’ team lost but the focus was on camaraderie and charity

Speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., greets members of the press team at the Congressional Women's Softball Game. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The positive energy and sense of community spilled over to the Congressional Women’s Softball Game from the previous week’s Congressional Baseball Game. With a record number of tickets sold and money raised for young women with breast cancer, the members losing 2-1 to the media team didn’t seem so bad.

“We tried hard and we’ll try hard next year, but it was a great night and I felt like not only did we come together as a Congress, both Dems and Republicans, but as a community,” New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said. “I think it showed our strength.”

And, just like during the baseball game, Watkin’s Recreational Center on Capitol Hill was filled with bipartisanship on Wednesday night.

“This team has been very special to me, a very special part of my congressional life. We have a great bond,” Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said. “We’re very partisan off the field, but on the field we work together as a team.”

Next year is Ros-Lehtinen’s last game; she announced her retirement in April. The congresswoman has been playing in the game since it was created and is a members’ team captain.

In her nine years playing, she said has never experienced a crowd like the one on Wednesday.

[Press Beats Members at Congressional Women's Softball Game, to Record Crowd]

“It’s so great to see,” she said. “It goes all for a good cause, raising lots of money for awareness that young women can get breast cancer, like Debbie did.”

She referred to her fellow captain, Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

The game raises money for the Young Survivors Coalition, which supports young women with breast cancer. Wasserman Schultz battled breast cancer in 2009.

“[The crowd is] wonderful. It really shows community support for what we’re trying to do to raise awareness for young survivors and to make sure young women know that they are vulnerable and they have to self examine, they have to know that they too can beat cancer,” Gillibrand said.

The New York senator scored the members’ only run of the game.

Colorado Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter has been coaching the members’ team for the nine years the game has existed and also played in Thursday’s Congressional Baseball Game. He called the large crowd “bittersweet.”

[Democrats Down Republicans, Both Down the Rhetoric]

“The games have drawn a lot of attention because of that terrible shooting last week,” Perlmutter said, referring to a gunman’s attack on the Republican team’s practice. “But the bright spot, if there’s any kind of bright spot, is that a lot of people have turned out for these charities, which are great.”

The congressman added, “The silver lining, if there can be such a thing, in what happened last week is that fact that a lot of people have turned out and supported these games and the charities that we help support.”

One of the victims of the shooting, Capitol Police agent Crystal Griner, left the hospital for 45 minutes to throw out the first pitch. She threw two pitches back-to-back from her wheelchair.

“I was really most touched that the Capitol policewoman threw out the first pitch, most inspiring moment of the game,” Gillibrand said.

[GoFundMe Page For Capitol Police Officer Crystal Griner Aims for $20K]

There were five rookies on the members’ team and seven rookies on the media team.

“It was a little nerve-wracking I have to say, but once I got into the game, it became fun,” Freshman Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said on her first game.

The Nevadan added that she will “absolutely” be playing next year.

“So glad I participated on so many levels,” Cortez Masto said. “One, because you can see, just the opportunity to meet my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, which is so important and get to know members of the press and do this for a good cause. It’s for charity. It’s for young survivors of cancer and I think it’s fantastic.”

Dozens of members and senators attended the game to show their support and there were a few celebrity appearances. Softball Olympian Monica Abbott, Washington Mystics’ player Elena Delle Donne, and Erica May-Scherzer, Washington Nationals’ Max Scherzer’s wife, were among the games’ umpires.

Country music singer Kalie Shorr sang “Fight Like a Girl,” during a break in the middle of the game and the game was also announced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, CNN’s Dana Bash and NBC’s Andrea Mitchell.

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