No matter what side of the political aisle you’re on, you couldn’t help but root for the team led by House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., when players took to the field for the annual charity baseball game between House Democrats and Republicans this week. The game took place exactly one year to the day after Scalise nearly lost his life when he was shot by a gunman while practicing for last year’s game with his Republican teammates.
Scalise’s journey back to the baseball field over the last year has been nothing short of miraculous. It’s been reminiscent of the movie “Field of Dreams” and the divine voice that whispered “Go the distance.”
And go the distance he has.
The exclamation point came Thursday night during the first play of the game, after Scalise was escorted onto the field by U.S. Capitol Police officers David Bailey and Crystal Griner, who were both wounded last year during the shooting. Scalise, who still walks with a limp, fielded a ball on his knees at his second base position, and threw out Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., at first base.
Earlier in the week, Scalise said: “Being able to walk out on to that field Thursday night is going to be a special, special moment.” I don’t think even he could have fathomed just how special.
In an emotional show of solidarity, Scalise’s teammates swarmed him on the field to celebrate just how far he’s come. Scalise has had to undergo several surgeries since being shot in the hip, which caused damage to his organs as well as internal bleeding.
Were it not for the fact that Scalise is a member of the House leadership and has a security detail that travels with him, that baseball practice would have had a much different ending.
Thanks to Scalise’s security detail, gunman James T. Hodgkinson – who targeted Republicans during baseball practice last year – was stopped by police in a shootout. He later died.
In addition to Scalise, a lobbyist, a congressional aide and Capitol Police Officers Bailey and Griner were injured in the shootout.
Prior to Thursday’s game, Scalise wore a Capitol Police hat as a tribute to the officers who responded to the shooting last year. He also gave blood, tweeting: “Last year, blood donations saved my life. This year, I am saying thank you by paying it forward. I encourage you to donate blood to save lives too!”
Scalise also credits the quick thinking and the medical expertise of former Army Ranger Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, who was on the field that day, for helping to save his life. Wenstrup is a physician and served as a combat surgeon in the Army.
"Who would have thought that God … put Brad out there on the field with me, because the tourniquet he applied, many will tell you, saved my life so I could actually make it to the hospital in time with all the blood loss,” Scalise said. He also said that "through the grace of God and marvels of medicine, I'm here.”
It’s been a long and challenging road back for Scalise. He hit the baseball field for his first practice earlier this month, and after starting back to work last September, just three months after being shot, he said from the House floor: “I am definitely a living example that miracles really do happen.”
You can choose to believe it was all just one big consequence that Capitol Police officers were already on the scene that day, and a medical doctor trained in combat was already on the field and able to respond.
However, it was nothing short of a miracle that Scalise was able to walk back on the baseball field Thursday night.
After he made the first out of the game this week he tweeted, “I’ve still got it.”
Scalise’s first play of the game was a divine reminder of just how much he’s “gone the distance” in a physically and emotionally challenging year, and a reminder that yes, he’s “still got it.”
The game ended with the Democrats winning by a score of 21-5 in what Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade joked was a “blue wave,” but Scalise was undeniably the game’s MVP.