Under the Dome. On the Diamond

If life imitates art, then the Congressional Baseball Game imitates Capitol Hill.

On the field, as in the Capitol, the sides are divided. In the House and Senate chambers, the Republicans sit on one side, Democrats on the other. At the Congressional Baseball Game, Republicans occupy the first base dugout. Democrats take up residence in the third base dugout.

The teams play hard. For keeps even. They challenge their opponent across the aisle — or diamond. They try to score political points. In this case, runs.

The annual, bipartisan baseball tilt at Nats Park is emblematic of what unfolds daily under the Capitol Dome up the street. It’s just that, for one night a year, lawmakers take it outside, under the lights. They wear cleats. They don New York Mets and University of Texas at San Antonio jerseys. Lawmakers even encounter protesters like they do in the halls of Congress.


Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., and Rep. Greg Casar, D-Texas, face off in the Congressional Baseball Game for Charity at Nationals Park June 12, 2024, in Washington, D.C. (Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

Only these demonstrators don’t surface in the Cannon Rotunda. They vault a fence near the left field foul pole only to be tackled in the grass by U.S. Capitol Police. Similar to what sometimes goes down in Congress.

Minus the left field foul pole.

Congress is often criticized for doing a lot of running around without accomplishing much.

A single play encapsulated this on the field Wednesday night.

Republicans were pounding the Democrats, 21-6, in the bottom of the sixth inning of a seven-inning game. But the Democrats had the bases loaded and were threatening to tighten the score.

Unlike in a Major League Baseball game, there are a lot more wild pitches and passed balls.

Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., went deep into the game for Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, the Republican skipper and former Atlanta Braves farmhand. But Williams switched pitchers later, bringing in Rep. August Pfluger, R-Texas, in relief.

Pfluger is the GOP “fireman.” He entered the game sporting a microscopic 1.11 ERA, reminiscent of Bob Gibson’s astonishing 1.12 ERA when he won the Cy Young Award in 1968.

In the bottom of the sixth, a breaking ball from Pfluger popped off the mitt of Republican catcher Rep. Morgan Luttrell, R-Texas, for a passed ball. The runners didn’t advance as Pfluger charged in to cover the plate.

But baserunning — and congressional hijinks — ensued a couple of pitches later.

Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y. was at bat. Rep. Pat Ryan, D-N.Y., was on first. Rep. Tim Kennedy, D-N.Y., was on second. Rep. Nanette Barragan, D-Calif., occupied third.


And then Pfluger uncorked a wild pitch that went all the way to brick backstop. The ball caromed across the grass in foul territory toward Lutrell.

Barragan creeped down the line halfway as Goldman wildly gyrated his arms, waving Barragan home.

However, Lutrell recovered the ball cleanly as Pfluger raced to cover the plate. Lutrell tossed it to Pfluger. It would be a no-no for Nanette to score on this one. The California Democrat retreated to the third base bag.

But that’s where trouble started.

Kennedy is not only a freshman but a rookie. In both Capitol Hill and congressional terms. Just called up to the big club from Buffalo. Not the Buffalo Bisons, the Toronto Blue Jays’ AAA affiliate. But Congress. He’s only represented Buffalo since early May, after winning a special election to succeed former Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y.

It’s customary for junior lawmakers not to upstage more senior lawmakers. But, at this stage, Kennedy was bearing down on third as Barragan tried to hustle back to safety. There were about to be two runners on third base. A conference committee. So, Kennedy reversed course, faster than a member halfway to Reagan National Airport on a congressional getaway day when the House calls an unexpected vote. Pfluger fired down to second, getting Kennedy in a rundown and the most press he’s ever garnered in his young congressional career. Now, Kennedy is trapped. He can’t head back to second because Pat Ryan, the runner on first, was legging it toward second.


Members of the Republican team stand during the singing of the national anthem during the Congressional Baseball Game for Charity at Nationals Park June 12, 2024, in Washington, D.C. (Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

So, to help Kennedy, Ryan makes a motion to recommit to first base just as the Republicans throw the ball away. The GOP had Kennedy in a true pickle. But he escaped.

And just like on Capitol Hill, you sometimes get a second chance.

Kennedy’s baseline filibuster allowed Barragan to score. Kennedy advanced safely to third.

This turn of events for both clubs made the Bad News Bears look like the ’75 Cincinnati Reds.

But after the errant throw in the Kennedy rundown, Ryan was now running again toward second base.

Most strange things in Congress seem to emerge “from left field.”

But, on this night, it came from right field.

Rep. Jake Ellzey, R-Texas, likely deserves the most alert play of the game.

Ellzey crept all the way in from right field to back up the rundown of Kennedy between second and third. Ellzey then fielded the wayward throw and bolted in an utter sprint, running directly at Ryan.


The New York Democrat was hung up between first and second, the third rundown in this bizarro sequence of events. Ellzey clenched the ball in his right hand, stretching toward Ryan and tagged him directly with the ball.

Ryan was out.

Ellzey is a graduate of the Naval Academy and flew missions as a fighter pilot. Ryan is a graduate of West Point and wore a Golden Knights jersey for the game.

Ellzey catching Ryan in the footrace was a true “Go Navy, beat Army” moment.

So, only one run scored amid all of that. And one out.

But like what often happens often in Congress, there are errors on both sides. And a lot of running around without much to show for it, even though Democrats eked out a run.

The play ended the bottom of the sixth inning in the seven-ining affair.


Members of the Democratic and Republican teams shake hands after the Congressional Baseball Game for Charity at National’s Park June 12, 2024. (Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

Republicans then went on to drop a ten spot on the Democrats in the top of the seventh and cruised to a staggering 31-11 victory.

“Biggest margin of victory since 1909,” gloated House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La. “I think it’s an omen about the election cycle. We’re looking for more of that in November.”

As for the Democrats, they need to dig into their farm system for some pitching.


“We have some opportunities that are out there in terms of additional talent,” said House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. “We made it competitive during the early part of the game and laid a foundation for the great Democratic comeback in 2025.

Just like daily politics on the Hill. Republicans banking on big victories this fall.

Democrats looking to reclaim control of the House.

No different under the Dome. Or on the diamond.