There might be gridlock down in Washington, but when members of Congress get together on the baseball diamond, the mood is decidedly different, according to U.S. Representative Tim Bishop.
Bishop, a native of Southampton, batted 2 for 2 with three RBIs and turned in a flawless performance at third base to earn co-MVP honors in the 52nd Annual Congressional Baseball Game for charity played last Thursday, June 13, at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., in front of 8,000 spectators. The 22-0 victory was the Democrats’ fourth straight after years of Republican dominance.
Aside from his production at the plate, Bishop also threw out five runners at first base.
In May, the Democratic team began holding 7 a.m. practices in Washington on days when Congress is in session. Bishop, 63, has started at third base in each of the last five games, and was previously named offensive MVP of the 2009 contest.
Bishop wore the uniform of the New York Yankees for this year’s contest, sporting the number 1 in honor of New York’s First Congressional District, which he has represented since 2003. Last year, he wore the uniform of the Stony Brook University Seawolves to honor their College World Series appearance.
A 1968 graduate of Southampton High School, Bishop played two years of junior varsity and two years of varsity baseball for the Mariners. Still, he said that until his inaugural Congressional game, he hadn’t played hardball since he was a teenager.
After graduating from high school, however, Bishop’s love for the sport did not fade as he competed in men’s softball leagues when he was in his 20s and 30s. Before running for Congress, he played in a Southampton Town men’s softball recreational league.
As a congressman, Bishop now fuses his love of baseball with two good causes: raising money for charity and forging friendships across the aisle. The gate receipts for the game are given each year to the Washington Literacy Center, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington and the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation. Strong attendance pushed the gate receipts close to $300,000 this year, according to game organizers.
Playing in the game has also helped Bishop forge friendships with congressional Republicans, something Bishop admits would not likely happen if it weren’t for their annual meet-ups on the diamond. At January’s State of the Union Address, he sat with Illinois Republican Congressman John Shimkus, the starting catcher for the GOP. They have developed a friendship thanks to the annual game.
“This is one of the few things left in Washington where Republicans and Democrats can get together, do something meaningful, and have fun,” Bishop said.
Of course, the actual competition means a lot to the congressman from Southampton, and Bishop said this year was one for the record books.
“I am very proud of our team,” he said. “We play once a year, and we played errorless ball. I think we had 16 chances in the field without an error.
“And we had 24 hits and 22 runs,” he continued. “This was, by far, the best game a team, Democrat or Republican, has played in the 11 years I’ve been part of it.”