When A Baseball Game Is More Than Just A Baseball Game

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. speaks during an interview in his offices at the U.S. Capitol Building, on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

On June 14, 2017,  a left-wing activist opened fire on a field full of Republican-elected officials, lobbyists, staffers, and their family members practicing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game for Charity.


James Hodgkinson was a Bernie Sanders supporter with a history of drunk driving, domestic violence, and angry Facebook posts against Republicans — and a list of Republican lawmaker names in his pocket the day of the shooting. According to the Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorneythe shooting was “an act of terrorism” that was “fueled by rage against Republican legislators.”

BuzzFeed covered the shooting last month, titled “The Nine Minutes That Almost Changed America.” If you haven’t read it, it is a must-read; nearly every sentence is chilling, and it is a stark reminder the shooting last summer could easily have been the worst political massacre in American history — but somehow wasn’t:

If you ask the people who survived, a series of miracles took place that morning, which Roger Williams considers “angels,” and Rep. Jeff Duncan, “God winks.”

That the shooter never got a good shot into the dugout. That his first shot hit the fence, diverting the bullet’s path away from Rep. Trent Kelly who was standing directly in front of him, at third base. That he never thought to climb the announcer’s booth. That the pitchers weren’t there that day, instead of trapped in a batting cage. That Matt Mika was turning his body when the first bullet struck him, so it didn’t hit his heart. That Zack Barth could still run. That Dr. Brad Wenstrup didn’t leave early. That Richard Krimmer’s ambulance hit green lights the entire way to the field. That the gate next to third base — through which the shooter could’ve walked through right onto the field — was locked, another fact nearly everyone on the team credits with saving their lives.

“If it was just one thing, you could maybe call it a coincidence, but when you add them all up together, the only way you can explain it is that they were all miracles,” Scalise says.

That Steve Scalise was even at the field was a miracle, too.

“The irony is because Steve Scalise was there,” Rodney Davis says, “we all survived.”

Because he is the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, Scalise has a security detail — on that morning, US Capitol Police special agents Crystal Griner and David Bailey. … They put themselves directly in harm’s way, engaging the shooter so he started firing back at them, instead of at everyone else.


Among those shot were congressional aide Zack Barth; Capitol Police officer and member of Scalise’s detail Crystal Griner; lobbyist Matt Mika; and Republican Congressman and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA).

Scalise’s injuries were the most serious; one doctor said, “when [Scalise] arrived, he was in critical condition with an imminent risk of death.” He spent more than a month in the hospital and then attended inpatient rehabilitation for months, and it was reported Scalise would have to “relearn” how to walk.

And he did.

Exactly 365 days after he was shot during a baseball practice, Steve Scalise played in the 2018 Congressional Baseball Game for Charity, which was held on Thursday night.

It was truly inspiring to watch:

And it’s clear being back out on the field was emotional for Scalise. He tweeted several significant moments from the baseball game — including one with the two special agents who helped save his life and the lives of others at the field that morning.

He also shared a touching scene of his teammates celebrating him on the field.


Lastly, Scalise thanked all the well-wishers who’d sent positive thoughts his way.

Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), another congressman at the field the morning the Republicans were targeted, sent a tweet of his own, in which he called the bipartisan event “one of the best institutions in Congress”:

The Democrats ultimately won the game 21-5, but the scoreboard isn’t what mattered Thursday night.

One year ago, America could have been profoundly changed, due to violent extremism from a left-wing terrorist.

We are extremely fortunate it wasn’t, and it’s heartening the bitter partisanship that drove Hodgkinson to commit an act of terror hasn’t taken over.

It’s powerful to see that we as Americans can come together, put aside political differences, and celebrate a bipartisan tradition and one of America’s most beloved pastimes — a game of baseball.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.



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