News & Politics

Hidden in the Bleachers at the Congressional Baseball Game, Representatives Have a Ball

Hill offices streamed into Nationals Park last night for off-the-clock fun.

Nationals Park. Photogrpah by Josie Reich.

Under the pretense of competition, the annual congressional baseball game offers a rare opportunity for bipartisan bonding. Representatives on both sides of the aisle build rapport during team practices, though it’s often cut-and-dry when it gets to the stadium: the 91st rendition of the ballgame Wednesday night saw Republicans trounce Democrats for the fifth game straight. But during the game, connections are formed not only on the field but also in the stands—and not by your average stadium rats.

“What I love is the community that’s created,” Teresa Leger Fernández, Democratic representative of New Mexico’s 3rd district, told Washingtonian. “Like, look how happy my entire office is. Look at that. My entire office comes, we have a great time, we hang out together.”

Like Leger Fernández, many other members of Congress alongside their staffs blended in with the crowd in the bleachers. Spectators sat in arena sections divided by partisanship: Democrat, Republic, and Independent. Unexpected spectacles kept the game interesting, such as climate protesters jumping onto the field and Colorado Republican representative Lauren Boebert vaping away.

“I’m enjoying the game with my staff and my daughter,” Adam Smith, Democratic representative of Washington’s ninth district, said from a nosebleed seat far leftfield. “And this is a lot of money for charity.” This year’s game raised $2.2 million for DC causes, according to the Congressional Sports for Charity. Smith has played in the game intermittently since 1997, most recently in 2022.

Congressional staff grouped into blocks in their respective sections, donning matching gear. The DCCC office for Democratic representative Chris Deluzio of Pennsylvania’s 17th district were dolled up in custom yellow “Deluzio 17” t-shirts and matching handkerchiefs. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson’s office sported classic black pinstripe jerseys, and animated staffers jumped to their feet at tense calls (if you thought the DOJ was rigged, get a load of this umpire).

The mid-June timing of the game means that it falls during many congressional interns’ first week on the job. That starry-eyed crowd brings an extra energy to the game, and can cheer shoulder-to-shoulder with senior staffers and members themselves.

Samay Alag, who attended the 2023 game as an intern in California Democrat Ro Khanna’s office, thought the game was a valuable welcome to DC. “I bumped into a lot of people from my college and my high school, and I didn’t know they were gonna be here,” he said.

Still, Alag—who played baseball in high school—called the congressional match “one of the weirder baseball games I’ve been to in my life,” laughing as he recalled sights such as an intern group that held up large cut-outs of their representative’s face.

As reflected in the series of losses on the field, the game simply seems not to be a party priority for Democrats. As Smith sees it, “the outcome in November is what matters more.”

Josie Reich
Editorial Fellow