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The Game Will Go on as GOP, Dem Team Managers Vow to Strengthen Bonds

Relatives of Coptic Christians grieve as they carry the coffin of Nermin Sadek, one of the victims of the militants attack on Mar Mina church, during their funeral service in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

WASHINGTON — The managers of the congressional baseball teams said the game will go on as scheduled Thursday evening, with a pre-game dinner for the GOP team at Dem headquarters tonight.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the manager of the GOP team who was at the field in Alexandria, Va., this morning when a gunman opened fire, and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), the Dem team manager whose players were practicing at the same time in another location, appeared together on Capitol Hill this afternoon to announce that, with the blessing of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Capitol Police, they’re ready to play ball.

Their statements came as MedStar Washington Hospital said House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) “was critically injured and remains in critical condition.” He was shot in the hip and is now out of surgery.

Rep. Roger Williams’ (R-Texas) aide Zachary Barth, Tyson Foods lobbyist Matt Mika and two Capitol Police officers were also wounded: David Bailey and Crystal Griner. Mika was reportedly in critical condition. Williams sprained his ankle during the incident.

Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa said Griner is in good condition after being shot in the ankle, while Bailey “was treated and released having sustained a minor injury during the incident.”

Barton confirmed “it will be ‘play ball’ tomorrow night at 7:05” at Nationals Stadium, with the game carried live on C-SPAN.

Congress members have added the Fallen Officers Fund to the list of charities that will benefit from the game, in addition to the Boys and Girls Club, the Washington Literacy Council and the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation. People attending the game can make donations, as can anyone online. The history of the game is 39 wins for each side and two ties.

Barton quipped that he told Doyle the Dems’ star player from Louisiana, Rep. Cedric Richmond, shouldn’t play out of respect for Louisiana Rep. Scalise being out; the Texas Republican said his Pennsylvania colleague told him that was “asking too much.”

“We’re united, not as Republicans and Democrats but as U.S. representatives,” Barton said.

Doyle said the Dem team heard the news during their early-morning practice and “could only imagine what our friends were going through at that moment.” The players went into the dugout, “huddled up” and “started saying prayers.”

Players on both sides of the aisle were determined to go ahead with the game, Doyle said, vowing “we’re not going to let incidents like this change our daily life.”

Capitol Police were on the scene only because a congressional leader, Scalise, was playing. “Had Steve’s personal detail not been there… this could have been much, much worse,” Doyle added.

“It shouldn’t take an incident like this to bring us together,” he said, noting that he and Barton “have been reflecting a lot lately” on how to maintain their principles and legislative agenda yet “do it in a more civilized way.” He advocated a “change the mood in the country so people don’t get filled with this kind of hatred.”

Doyle and the Dems invited the entire GOP team for dinner tonight at the National Democratic Club, a chance to “get to know each other a little bit better.”

“I’m going to bring my food tester,” Barton joked, “but we will be there … we have a bond beyond just managers of a baseball team.”

“What happened this morning was unconscionable … you could see the shooter ducking out and shooting,” Barton said. “…He was doing it simply because apparently he didn’t like the political climate” and “started shooting at a bunch of congressmen who happened to be Republicans — that’s not American.”

The Texas Republican blamed technology and how politics has evolved for the climate in which “members are not looked at as people anymore… people think they can come to our townhall meetings and say the most obnoxious things and think we don’t take it personally.”

“Now, people get their information out of a fire hydrant… they use their two thumbs to insult one another,” Doyle added.

Barton choked up, and was comforted by Doyle, when talking about how more Democrats than Republicans sent gifts for his newborn son back in the 1980s. His 10-year-old son was out at practice today and initially hid under a car after the shots began. “He had 25 dads — everyone was out there looking after him,” Barton said.

Doyle said his first thoughts were of young Jack Barton. At the Dems’ practice, Cedric Richmond’s young son was out with the team.

“Who would have thought that taking my son… to a baseball practice in the early morning would expose him to danger,” Barton said. “That is something I will think about in the future.”

Doyle said that while he thinks most members will eschew the idea of personal security, “maybe we should rethink” security arrangements for group congressional get-togethers.

Barton quipped that tonight’s dinner at the Dem club has “gotta be a historic first step in bipartisanship,” and he vowed to “order the most expensive steak on the menu.”

“Why would somebody hate somebody so much that they would shoot somebody they didn’t even know… thank God he wasn’t a very good shot,” Barton said.

At a later press conference, hobbling out on crutches, Williams noted that “there will be those who talk about what’s wrong with America, but in this case officers Griner and Bailey, we saw what’s right with America.”

Without the Capitol Police officers, “there could have easily been 25 deaths or more today,” said the Fort Hood congressman, choking up and letting the officers know “my family and I will be forever grateful.”

Williams announced that Barth, who was shot in the leg and benefited from Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) removing his belt and using it as a tourniquet on the young congressional aide, has been released from the hospital. “All the time he was bleeding and we were under fire he was texting,” Williams noted. Barth received a phone call from Vice President Pence.

“They win if we give in,” the congressman declared. “We must play this baseball game. If we don’t play this baseball game and we go home, they win.”

Of the shooter, Williams said, “He just had an issue. I don’t think it was a Democrat/Republican issue.”