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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

WASHINGTON — Republicans and Democrats took the field for their annual charity baseball game at Nationals Park Thursday, continuing a treasured tradition of setting aside political divisions for a few hours of spirited competition a day after a shooting rampage left a wounded colleague fighting for survival.

The Congressional Baseball Game for Charity took on a serious meaning this year as organizers and attendees said it was a chance to show the nation that more unites Americans of both parties than divides them and that the event could not be shut down by a gunman.

"I have some friends who are interns who were talking about going, and after the shooting, I mean, I have to go," said Emily Cleveland of Danville, Ill., as she entered the stadium. "I think it's a big statement that they're still having it. I think it's saying a lot because it's America's pastime. It's a really American thing to do, to just go ahead anyway."

A gunman fired on the Republican team's practice on a suburban Virginia field Wednesday, critically wounding Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise and injuring three other people as horrified legislators and staffers scrambled for cover amid a barrage of bullets. Scalise, the third most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives, was shot through the hip and listed in critical condition at Medstar Washington Hospital Center on Thursday after undergoing a third surgery.

"He's in some trouble," President Trump said during a jobs event at the White House. He called Scalise a "great fighter."

Lawmakers donned Louisiana State University ball caps in Scalise's honor.

The crowd applauded Capitol Police officer David Bailey — who was injured as he fired on the shooter — as he hobbled to the mound on crutches and tossed the ceremonial first pitch.

Trump delivered a videotaped statement, saying the game is evidence that "we will not be intimidated ... the game will go on."

"Last year, we set records with $500,000 raised for charity and 10,000 fans, and already we're topped $1 million in donations and sold more than 20,000 tickets" before game time, said Sean Brown, a volunteer with the Congressional Sports Foundation, which organizes the event.

"Were in town because we're tourists, and I mean I heard about the shooting, and I was like, 'Wow, it would be cool to come today to show support for the congressmen,' " said Otis Amick of Phoenix. "I think a good turnout today would be a good statement against what happened yesterday."

Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond, the Democrats' star pitcher, said he and Scalise are close friends and work together on many issues, but there's an intense rivalry on the baseball field.

"We will miss Steve on the field," Richmond said.

Despite all the talk about bipartisanship in the wake of the shooting, Richmond said the game will be very partisan.

"We will go at it," he said. "I know Steve wouldn't have it no other way."

This year, the charities that will benefit include the Washington Literacy Center, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington and the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation.

Contributing: Emma Kinery, Katherine Fitzgerald and Deborah Barfield Berry

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June 16, 2017
 
 
 

 

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