Representative and 2018 Colorado gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis was a star at last night's congressional baseball game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., delivering four RBIs, including the winning run, in leading the Democrats over the Republicans by a score of 11-2. But while he was pleased with his performance, he keeps the focus on Representative Steve Scalise and three others who were wounded in a shooting at a practice session on June 14, the day before the game.
"It's a wonderful thing that we were able to play the game, and three or four times the usual crowd came to support charity," Polis says about the annual contest. "I think so many fans were more excited than ever before because they were aware of what this game meant because of the tragedy and what happened to our colleague Steve Scalise, who's recovering in the hospital after several surgeries. To be able to come together to support the Boys & Girls Clubs and other worthy charities really helped us all feel better."
Polis and the other members of the Democratic team were practicing at another location at the same time the Republican players came under fire from James Hodgkinson, a 66-year-old Illinois man who was killed in the incident — and once they heard what had happened, they were ordered to take cover.
"Of course, this was much more shocking and scary for our colleagues at the Republican practice who actually witnessed the shooting," Polis acknowledges. "But for us, we didn't know what was happening. We had to gather in the dugout, because we didn't know if there was someone coming after us, too, and we had two or three Capital police protection units assigned to us. As we waited for news, we gathered in prayer for the victims we'd heard about over Twitter."
A similar get-together took place prior to the start of last night's game.
"We did two special things," Polis notes. "When we do the lineups at the beginning of the game, usually they call out both teams separately. But last night, we interspersed. We lined up together before the game started, and then we also all gathered together by second base for a moment of silent prayer."
In the contest itself, Polis says, "I got the go-ahead RBI in the third inning with a single, and I got three other RBIs — so it was a four-RBI night."
He adds, "I was batting in the five slot, and I play every year. I really enjoy baseball, and I'm a huge Rockies fan. It was fun to sport a Rockies uniform, especially this year, with the Rockies being NL West contenders."
Players for Republicans and Democrats gathered at second base for a moment of silent prayer before the game got under way.
When it comes to Rockies fandom, Polis is no bandwagon-jumper. "Young Blood," our 2004 feature article about Polis, published before he was elected to Congress, includes several scenes at Coors Field. He even brought a mitt along to the game he attended with yours truly.
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After the shooting, President Donald Trump suggested that Scalise's injury might help bring Republicans and Democrats together in a way that's been rare given the toxic nature of Washington politics these days.
When asked if he thinks that's possible, Polis says, "I think we can disagree on issues while still being civil. I think that's what we try to do as members of Congress. I work with my Republican colleagues and my Democratic colleagues on so many different issues that are bipartisan, and when we disagree — for instance, the Republicans are trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act and throw around twenty million people off health care and increase rates for people who stay on health care — at least we should do it civilly."
In Polis's view, political back-and-forths "should never enter the realm of physical threats or things that may sound like physical threats to those who might be mentally unhinged and prone to taking inappropriate action. I think there's been too much of that in the public discourse: elected leaders and commentators who use words that are too incendiary. Hopefully at least that part will diminish in the wake of this tragedy."