Short of the Nationals capturing a World Series berth, one of the most anticipated baseball battles in Washington, DC happens every year between the US Congressional Democrats and Republicans. And for the past five years, Connecticut’s Chris Murphy has been the man behind the plate for the Democrats.
During his seven years in Washington, first as a Congressman and more recently as Senator, Mr Murphy has spent four on the field as team catcher. And while you may think he was “recruited” for his skills, Sen Murphy admits he played ball as a kid, but hadn’t been near the sport until we was elected to congress. So he tells it straight when asked about his qualifications for such a pivotal post on the roster.
“Honestly, I’m the catcher because I’m the only Democrat in Congress who can squat down and jump back up and get down again,” he said in a chat with The Newtown Bee ahead of the game June 13. “Apparently, all you need are young knees.”
Sen Murphy said he was a “passable” athlete in his youth, but at this point in his abbreviated sporting career, his only hope is “to not let too many pitches get by me.”
Another reason he and his teammates don’t spend a lot of time preparing for the annual competition, which is a popular fundraiser for a Washington literacy program as well as the local Boys and Girls Clubs, is self preservation.
“We try to limit practices, really,” he said. “They tend to get more players injured than trained.”
Sen Murphy recalls the glory years for his Democratic team – the storied 2009-2010 season when Congress was overflowing with Democrats including “a handful of baseball phenoms.”
“Those years the team had an outstanding catcher, while I was basically a designated hitter,” he said.
Not that Sen Murphy’s short-lived baseball career went without its few moments of drama. He recalled a tight game at the end of a 10-year drought for the Dems. His team was leading by one at the bottom of the ninth with one out and the GOP had the bases loaded.
“So the pitcher takes a shot hopper and tosses it to me and I get the runner out at home. Two outs,” Sen Murphy recalled. “The next one was a chopper that I picked up. But instead of throwing it to first, it heads out into right field and two runs score, Republicans win.
“That was the only time the game was on my arm, and I ended up being the goat. Now my claim to fame is losing that 2008 game for the Dems,” he added.
On the other hand, Sen Murphy values the opportunity to hang out with his Republican colleagues, in an environment mostly free from conversation about the latest Capital Hill brouhaha.
“It’s a really neat way to get to know my fellow congressmen outside the confines of the job,” he said. “I’ve developed some of my best friendships in Washington from relationships that started on the Congressional Baseball team.”
And he believes some of those friendships have helped Connecticut and the Fifth District.
“One of my strongest friendships is with Republican Congressman Bill Shuster from Pennsylvania, who chairs the House Transportation Committee,” Sen Murphy said. “You know Connecticut relies heavily on federal transportation spending, so it doesn’t hurt to have a friend chairing the committee.”
Sen Murphy said he is most proud in his seventh season to be donning the uniform of the Newtown Hawks.
“I’m ready to wear number 32,” he said. “And I’m happy to have one of their new caps, with the green ribbon and Sandy Hook 26 emblem on the back.”
According to its website, congressionalbaseball.org, since 1909 the Congressional Baseball Game has been the only annual partisan showdown drawing thousands of attendees each year. With few interruptions, Senate and House members of each party have teamed up with members usually sporting a uniform from their home state and district.