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'Scalise Strong': Congress puts up united front at charity baseball game after shooting

 (Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call)
(Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call)

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Porter Ranch) smiled broadly when asked who he thought would win the 56th annual Congressional Baseball Game. 

“America,” he said with a laugh.

The charity game on Thursday night began on a somber note with a prayer and a moment of silence for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and three others who were shot by a gunman on Wednesday at the GOP team's practice for the event.

After the lawmakers on the Democratic and Republican rosters rose from their knees in prayer, fans and players quickly got caught up in the traditional rivalry at Nationals Park in Washington. Thousands of fans booed or cheered when their partisan teams made a play, and pulled out their phones to film the Nationals' mascots — the running presidents —  race around the bases. (Teddy Roosevelt won by cutting the final corner.)

Shortly after the shooting, coaches for both teams said they would go forward with the game. They seemed determined to show unity after a gunman who appeared to be targeting Republicans unleashed a spray of bullets on the practice field in Alexandria, Va., and was eventually stopped by police.

During the game, a Washington hospital announced that Scalise remained in critical condition. A Capitol Police officer who was injured while helping stop the attacker threw out the ceremonial first pitch, hobbling out on crutches to a standing ovation.

Indicators of Wednesday’s shooting were sprinkled throughout the stadium. Police were very visible at the event that sold a record 25,000 tickets and raised $1 million. Many fans, including ones who identified as Democrats, carried signs that read "Scalise Strong" or "Geaux Scalise." Members of Congress from both parties wore Capitol Police and Louisiana State University hats to honor Scalise's alma mater. 

Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands) said there was a lot less trash-talking on the field this year and members spent more time checking on one another.

"The energy was very positive. It was one of unity and very sincere concern for Rep. Scalise. There was a lot of camaraderie," Aguilar said.

With a final score of 11-2, Democrats received the coveted trophy. Democratic coach Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania called Republican coach Rep. Joe L. Barton of Texas to the microphone and said his team wanted the trophy to be displayed in Scalise’s office until the Louisiana congressman returns.

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