WASHINGTON -- Unified, one sign read. Undivided, said another.
Republicans and Democrats stood on their feet together on Thursday night at Nationals Park, as the 57th annual Congressional Baseball Game -- on the heels of Wednesday's shooting during a practice -- offered a chance to unite with our national pastime.
The crowd at Nationals Park, which easily doubled last year's group of approximately 10,000, broke out into several chants of "U-S-A" as 60 members of Congress huddled together pregame in a sign of solidarity in honor of the four injured in Wednesday's attack. There was a special moment for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) -- who remained in critical condition as of game time -- with members of both parties taking off their hats in a salute to Scalise's face on the video board.
The game ball was delivered by MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre, with special agent David Bailey, who was hit in the ankle as he charged the suspect, throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. Both Bailey and fellow special agents Crystal Griner have been hailed for their heroic efforts. Both teams wore Capitol Police hats to show their support, in addition to Louisiana State University garb to honor Scalise, who received a degree from LSU.
The game streamed live on MLB.com and Facebook.com/MLB, offering fans an experience not far from an MLB broadcast, with play-by-play and color announcers as well as multiple camera angles. The Facebook stream also gave viewers an opportunity to donate to the charitable causes affiliated with the event.
"In the wake of this senseless tragedy, today, Republicans and Democrats come together for American's pastime, and we can show the world that we can work together," said Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), who was his club's starting catcher. "We can govern. And I hope to show everybody watching tonight that we actually like each other. That's what I want to get out tonight. And since this game is televised -- I hope I don't make any errors."
The elaborate pregame ceremonies featured the U.S. Capitol Police Ceremonial Unit initiating the presentation of colors and the Congressional Chorus singing the national anthem as well as "God Bless America."
"[I'm] glad to be here at the Congressional Baseball Game," said injured aide Zach Barth, who got around on crutches and drew a crowd everywhere he went. "I appreciate all the support. Glad this game is going to bring us together."
The annual charity game -- which debuted in 1909 but has not been played every year, breaking for significant world events -- pits members of the Senate and House of Representatives.
The game benefits organizations including the Washington Literacy Center, the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington and the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation. This year, part of the proceeds will also go toward the Capitol Police, with $1 million reportedly having already been raised.
"I don't know; we will see how this is going to affect us," Rep. Steve Pearce of New Mexico said of the possibility of Wednesday's events sparking change in Washington. "There are a lot of deep feelings when you get talking to people."
Here to support my colleagues at the Congressional Baseball Game, as we put aside politics and honor the bravery of our first responders. pic.twitter.com/FjvHwN2oSG
The game began following a brief moment of silence for those injured on Wednesday. President Donald Trump also delivered a taped message that aired prior to first pitch. Trump's daughter, Ivanka, was in attendance on Thursday.