House majority whip Steve Scalise recorded the first out of Thursday’s Congressional Baseball Game, receiving a standing ovation from the evenly split bipartisan crowd at Nationals Park.
Playing second base, Scalise snagged Raul Ruiz's (D., Calif.) ground ball and tossed it to first base for the out. Scalise was immediately engulfed by teammates as the entire Republican starting lineup jogged over to congratulate him.
The out was fitting for Scalise, who was nearly killed when a gunman opened fire on him and three others at a congressional baseball practice exactly 365 days ago. Scalise was shot in the hip, and doctors feared he would not survive his injuries. He returned to Congress on September 28 to applause and cheers from his fellow representatives. Scalise said he felt surreal returning to the baseball field for the first time on the first anniversary of the shooting.
"God performed many miracles, and it's going to be pretty neat to come full circle and walk out there on the field tonight," Scalise said. "Team Scalise has come out strong. Southeast Louisiana is well represented. I got to wear my LSU uniform this morning for practice, and I'm wearing Team USA today."
Scalise signed autographs and baseballs for fans who lined up along the first-base line to greet him. He was the last member of the Republican team to be introduced before the game. As he walked onto the field with a crutch in hand, the crowd rose to its feet.
He only entered the game for the first two plays, choosing instead to watch the rest of the game from the dugout. He was, however, still pleased to see both parties unite on the playing field.
"This is a night where we compete against one another," Scalise said. "We want to beat Democrats, and they want to beat us. But we truly make great friendships out here, and it's one of those nights we should do more things like this to show the country that even when we disagree on some of the important policies, we can get along with each other and hopefully build better relationships to try to do even more to get this country back on track."
The game was mostly controlled by the Democrats after Scalise's exit. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D., La.) led the Blue Wave with an RBI in the third inning and a three-run inside-the-park homer in the fifth to extend his team's lead to 17-4. He also pitched a complete game for the Democrats and allowed just five runs.
"Cedric Richmond pitched way beyond his capacity," Rep. Joe Crowley (D., N.Y.) said. "It was spectacular. He hit an inside-the-park home run and pitched a complete game with over 140 pitches. He's just a great athlete."
The Republicans resembled the 2018 New York Mets with miscues in the field and the batters box. They committed four errors while not getting much action out of their bats. The most productive inning for the GOP came in the fourth when it scored three runs to cut the Democrats’ lead to 10-4.
Democrats never looked back after that inning, scoring 11 runs over the final three frames to defeat the Republicans 21-5. The blow-out victory narrowed the GOP's series lead to one game at 42-41-1.
Despite the lopsided win, Rep. Tim Ryan (D., Ohio) said this game was about much more than a victory for the Democrats. He said seeing Scalise at the keystone was the highlight of the day.
"The first play [for Scalise] was like God came down and said ‘This is how this game should start,'" Ryan said. "It was just incredible. Ruiz felt bad because he made a bad hit, but I said, ‘Dude, this was bigger than you.' So it was phenomenal, and you couldn’t have drawn it up any better."