Congressional baseball is a quaint throwback of a sport, not just for the aging players who take the field but for the country they have been elected to represent. It is anchored in the unfashionable idea that political leaders serve a single American public, one united more by its pastimes than divided by its politics. Democrats and Republicans play for the fun of it.
Since the first pitch in 1909, the scrimmage had evolved and expanded into its current form, as a fundraiser for local causes played at the stadium used by the Washington Nationals. For months, without public notice or fanfare, Democrats and Republicans take the fields to practice as often as three days a week, as early as 6:30 a.m. They’re not particularly good, but that’s not the point.
So when a deranged gunman opened fire on a baseball diamond in Alexandria, Va., June 14, he was taking aim at more than the GOP members of Congress who had risen at dawn to practice on the far side of the Potomac River. He targeted the notion that the country could still be more than the political furies that increasingly define it, and that had allegedly come to consume him.
On that score, at least, his attack was a failure. He wounded five and briefly unified the nation’s political leaders. When Democrats, at their own practice, learned of the shooting, they gathered together in prayer for their colleagues.