Ohio senators face off on softball field, with politics on the sidelines

Sen. Sherrod Brown is a baseball fanatic who once dreamed of turning his Little League exploits into a career with the Cleveland Indians. Sen. Rob Portman is a bicycling and kayaking enthusiast who once fixed his own dislocated shoulder by slamming himself against a rock.

On Monday, the two Ohio senators and their staffs faced off in a friendly — but still fiercely competitive — game of softball, with a dash of politics of course. After all, this game pit “The Blue Collars” against the “Swing State Sluggers.”

“We gonna win this thing?” Portman, R-Ohio, asked his swing-state teammates as he sidled up to the field on his bike. 

Brown, Mr. Blue-Collar himself, said the loser should have to vote against the Senate GOP health care bill — which was hanging by a thread at the time of the Ohio Democrat’s suggestion. Portman has yet to take a position on that controversial bill.

The two men almost failed to agree on who would be at bat first, amid some confusion over the determining factor: which senator had the last grasp of the bat in a hand-over-hand competition. Brown won on the second try, after the rules of play were clarified.

Still, it was a rare moment of lighthearted comity and civility at a time when Washington is riven with partisan recriminations, not to mention heightened concern about lawmakers’ safety in the wake of last month’s shooting at a GOP congressional baseball practice.

Many Senate offices have softball teams that play in a regular D.C. league, but the lawmakers don’t usually show up for the games, let alone play. Brown and Portman quickly signed up when they realized their two offices would have a softball showdown on Monday.

And of course they were both center stage at the game unfolded on the National Mall — with the Capitol as a backdrop and a police detail stationed nearby.

Brown played first base, and he got Portman out a couple times after the 61-year-old Republican moved at less-than-lightning-speed to the plate. Portman pitched, and the 64-year-old Democrat managed to get on base a few times, despite moving at about that same less-than-lightning speed.

With Portman on the mound, it was softball city. He even took a time-out to show one of Brown’s staffers on how to choke up on the bat.

On the sidelines, Portman’s chief of staff showed up in full senatorial dress code — cuff links included. Brown’s chief of staff came in casual Monday mode, with an adorable Dalmatian mix in tow.

So the real question you have all been waiting for: Which team won?

It was a GOP rout, kind of like the 2016 elections. Portman’s swing-state sluggers crushed the Blue Collars by 21-to-10.

In the meantime, though, the GOP health care bill went down in flames — as two more Republicans announced they would vote against opening debate on the measure. That fresh opposition will kill the bill, handing Brown (and other Democrats) a political victory, if not an athletic one.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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