Politics, government and public life for Southern California

California ballplayers sparkle in Congressional baseball game

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Every year, you can count on Democrats and Republicans fighting it out with balls and bats instead of ballots and bills. For the past 53 years, politicos on Capitol Hill have competed in a charity baseball game.

For the sixth straight year, the Democrats won. The score was a lopsided 15-6 in a rain-shortened game at Nats Park, the home stadium for the National League's Washington Nationals.

California lawmakers were some of the brightest stars.

Freshman Raul Ruiz, facing a tough re-election battle in his Palm Springs district, was named the Democrats' most valuable player for both his hitting and sparkling play at second base.

Lakewood Democrat Linda Sanchez — the only female ballplayer on either squad — came in in the fifth inning and promptly hit a line drive to left field, scoring a run. She wears "IX" on her jersey, in honor of the Title IX ruling that outlawed sex discrimination in education and opened the door to dollars for girls' sports. Staffers from her office waved signs — one reading (baseball) "diamonds are a girl's best friend."

San Fernando Valley freshman Democrat Tony Cardenas played in his first game, calling it "a blast." His fans made signs spelling out his name. Fellow freshman Eric Swalwell of Livermore also made an appearance late in the game.

Only one Californian played for the GOP team: Redding freshman Doug LaMalfa. "Team LaMalfa" signs were spotted on the Republican side of the stadium. (Yes, the two parties don't even sit together at baseball games!)

The new Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield was in the stands, rooting for the Republicans, who've had a hard time the past three years overcoming sterling pitching by Louisiana Democrat Cedric Richmond. Last year, Richmond threw a 22-0 shutout.

There was one casualty: freshman Democrat Jared Huffman of San Rafael suffered a separated shoulder in Wednesday morning's practice. He was scheduled to play shortstop. He cast votes Thursday afternoon with his right arm in a sling.

The game ended abruptly in dramatic fashion with a message from the ballpark announcer to "walk, don't run, but seek immediate shelter." A drippy rain shower turned into a dramatic thunderstorm that had staffers and lawmakers sheltering under the stands.

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