More than $1 million has been raised for charity ahead of Thursday night’s Congressional Baseball Game in Washington, according to the organization’s Facebook page.
The Republican team was holding its last practice before the game when five people were shot Wednesday morning at a suburban Virginia park, including Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., the third-highest-ranking Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Members of Congress gathered near second base before the start of the game. They knelt, then bowed heads for a moment of silence.
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who took cover with sons during the shooting, was one of the first on the field. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was also among those to take the field.
Capitol Police officer David Bailey made his way to the mound on crutches to throw out the first pitch. He was injured in Wednesday’s shooting.
Ivanka Trump, President Donald Trump’s daughter and a White House adviser, was there with her children to honor the victims of yesterday’s shooting. President Trump delivered a videotaped statement, saying the playing game this year is evidence that “we will not be intimidated … the game will go on.”
Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., said earlier he would be at third base Thursday even though the gunman, identified by the FBI as James Hodgkinson, approached him just before he opened fire, asking if the team practicing “was Democrats or Republicans.”
Hodgkinson died at the hospital Wednesday after he was shot by police.
“Nothing pulls people together like teamwork,” said DeSantis’ colleague from the Democratic team, Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., who will be playing second base. “That’s why it’s really important that we play. We’re going to show resiliency. That we’re not going to let the bad guys or the crazies interrupt our lives. We need to pull together and show we’ve got grit.”
The game is now poised for what could become an attendance record. Sanchez said in the previous 14 years she’s played, the game averaged about 15,000 in ticket sales. Thursday, the nonprofit that organizes the event — called The Congressional Baseball Game for Charity — posted on its Facebook page, “We have exceeded 20,000 in ticket sales” after the Washington Nationals released additional seats to sell. The Nationals are in New York for the night, scheduled to play the Mets.
Tickets for the Congressional Baseball Game sell for $10 to $15, which when added to online donations has resulted in more than $1 million for the game’s four designated charities, including the Capitol Police Memorial Fund. Members added the organization to its list after two Capitol Police officers, Bailey and Crystal Griner, were wounded while trying to protect the members during Wednesday’s practice. Both have since been released from the hospital.
DeSantis said the congressional aide also injured in the attack, Zach Barth, had volunteered to gather up balls during batting practice just before he was shot. Barth also has been released from the hospital.
But lobbyist Matt Mika was shot multiple times and remains in critical condition, as does Scalise. President Trump visited with Scalise’s family earlier Thursday and later commented, “He’s in some trouble.” But the president then added, “He’s going to be OK. We hope.” Gabrielle Webster is the CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Washington, another of the four charities supported by the Congressional Baseball Game. The “attack on a bipartisan, apolitical, charitable event is especially troubling,” she said.
But Webster estimates 15,000 children will benefit from the record number of donations.
“Baseball gives people a chance to come together and heal when nothing else seems to work,” she explained. The game will allow “everyone in our community to focus on our kids who need us the most, and giving kids a safe place to go after school is something that we can all agree upon, regardless of party or politics.”