Washington • Rep. Roger Williams knew when he saw his colleague Mia Love tossing strikes, snagging grounders and slapping singles, that his team needed her. She had talent.
So Williams of Texas recruited the Utah Republican to play for the GOP team against their Democratic counterparts in the Congressional Baseball Game.
Love, who already participates in the Congressional Women’s Softball Game, will take the field next month as the only female Republican to play alongside the men in the charity game at Nationals Park in Washington.
“I tell the guys not to let the nail polish fool them,” Love says. “I’m pretty competitive.”
Love isn’t the first woman to play in the nearly all-male baseball game — Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., donned the uniform in the 1990s — and Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán, D-Calif., is playing on her party’s team this year. But it’s one more step in breaking the gender line.
“I’ve got a couple of things the guys don’t have,” Love brags. “I can run fast, so that’s good.”
Love took the mound as a pitcher in last year’s women’s softball game and also played second base. In that game, female members of Congress take on women from the Washington press corps. The Bad News Babes beat the politicians 2-1 last year to keep their title.
Of course, playing baseball is a different game.
The field is bigger, the bases farther apart and the crowd larger.
And this year’s game, being held June 14, comes exactly one year after a shooter, targeting members of Congress at their baseball practice just outside Washington, wounded House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., Capitol Police officer Crystal Griner, congressional aide Zack Barth and lobbyist Matt Mika.
Capitol Police now provide protection during practices, and Love says she’s more worried about the safety of her kids than herself at practice.
Williams, a Texas congressman who played professional ball for an Atlanta Braves farm team, says adding Love to the baseball game had nothing to do with her gender. He watched her at last year’s softball game and saw skills his team needed.
“I don’t look at Mia as being a woman. She’s a ballplayer,” Williams says. “And she holds herself very well with these guys. She’s fast. She’s going to add a lot of value to the team.”
Love will play second base, Williams said.
“The bottom line is we need her speed,” Williams says. “She can catch the ball; she can throw the ball. We were at the batting cages today, and she did very, very well.”
Playing two different games means a lot of preparation for Love, who is also an avid runner. She hits two softball practices a week when in session and two baseball practices. One day a week, both teams practice.
The baseball team meets at 6:15 a.m., the softball team at 7:15, and Love says she’s ready for her congressional duties by 8:30 a.m.
This year’s softball game, played at a Capitol Hill elementary school, is June 20, less than a week after the baseball contest.
Both are fundraisers for charity. The softball game raises money for young women with breast cancer and has so far raked in nearly $1 million since it started in 2009.
The baseball game, now in its 111th year, raised $1.7 million last year for various charities, Williams says. That game, televised live by C-SPAN, saw a record crowd after the shooting raised its profile.
Love says she’s happy to play because it’s fun and also a good way to raise money for deserving organizations. As a bonus, she says both games are an opportunity for members of Congress to get to know one another outside the Capitol.
“It’s a time where we as members of Congress get to come together and stand together for a common cause,” she said. “With all of the things that are happening, with all that our kids are seeing on TV, I think it’s good for them to see adults behaving like adults doing good things for people. We need a little bit more of that.”