Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Take me out of the Capitol ... to the old ballgame

Rookie Congressman Raul Ruiz will play third base for the Democrats.

Forget that brawl at Dodger Stadium Tuesday night. It could get real ugly in Washington Thursday night when the Congressional baseball teams take the field for their annual game.

It's Democrats vs. Republicans, with California well represented. There are five rookies from the Golden State, and an 11-year veteran — the only woman on the Democratic squad.

The Californians bring a range of experience to the field. Palm Springs Democrat Raul Ruiz says he grew up playing in Little League. Redding Republican Doug LaMalfa played on a softball team  when he was in the state legislature. Lakewood Democrat Linda Sanchez is the veteran. She played fast pitch softball for about 15 years before coming to Congress. But David Valadao, a Central Valley Republican, says he's never played.

LaMalfa says he's heard Democrats have a hot pitcher who's shut down the GOP two years in a row. Not this year, he says: "You go out there, play the game, stick the bat out, see what happens, right?"

Pinch-hitting Sanchez has played the Congressional game for more than a decade. She tells freshmen it's a good way to meet lawmakers not on their committees — and even mingle with the Senators who put on a glove: "And when you play together as a team, there is this sense of comraderie and esprit de corps."

How seriously do they take the game? Well, there have been 7 a.m. practices, which physician Raul Ruiz — the Democrats' third baseman — says have taken their toll: "We've got pulled hamstrings and pulled calves." He admits he's pulled something himself.

It's a baseball tradition to try to hide the least experienced player somewhere he'll do the least damage. Valadao admits they've put him in left field, but he says it's all for a good cause: "We're raising money for the Boys and Girls' Club."

The 52nd annual game begins after votes, down the street from the U.S. Capitol, at Nationals Park. The Republicans lead the all-time series 38-36. There's been one tie. If that happens again, does Vice President Joe Biden get to declare the winner? 

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