GOP hits the field at 1st congressional ball game practice since 2017 shooting

Evidence of 2017's Congressional Baseball shooting is still evident in the fence near the third base dugout at Simpson Stadium in Alexandria on April 25, 2018. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
Evidence of last year’s shooting is still evident in the fence near the third base dugout at Simpson Stadium in Alexandria. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
The ball field had several large puddles making it impossible to have batting practice. Players limbered up their arms by playing catch and coaches hit grounders in the infield.  (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
Former Congressional staffer Matt Mika (far left) was shot in the chest last year. He helped prepare the field for the practice. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
Former Congressional staffer Matt Mika (far left) was shot in the chest last year. He helped prepare the field for the practice Wednesday. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
Limbering up, GOP ballplayers in their first practice since last year's shooting. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
Limbering up, GOP ballplayers in their first practice since last year’s shooting. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
GOP team manager Congressman Joe Barton of Texas said it’s good to be back on the field. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
Taking some grounders at GOP practice. (Twitter/Neal Augenstein) (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
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Evidence of 2017's Congressional Baseball shooting is still evident in the fence near the third base dugout at Simpson Stadium in Alexandria on April 25, 2018. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
Former Congressional staffer Matt Mika (far left) was shot in the chest last year. He helped prepare the field for the practice. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
Limbering up, GOP ballplayers in their first practice since last year's shooting. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers took to the field Wednesday for the first time at the Alexandria, Virginia, baseball diamond where a gunman opened fire in June 2017, critically injuring House GOP Whip Steve Scalise.

“It is emotional,” said team manager Rep. Joe Barton, of Texas, during a news conference along 3rd base line, referring to being back on the field.

“It is important, I think, to show continuity, to show our team is not intimidated,” he said.

The shooting happened shortly after 7 a.m. on June 14, 2017, as Republican members of Congress practiced at the Eugene Simpson Stadium in Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood for a Congressional Baseball Game.

Multiple people were injured, including Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., who sustained serious injuries after he was shot in the hip — the bullet fractured bones and injured internal organs.

Others hurt were Roger Williams, a Texas congressman, Zachary Barth, a member of Williams’ congressional staff, Special Agent Crystal Griner, Special Agent David Bailey and Matt Mika, Tyson Food’s director of government relations who was a former congressional staffer.

Scalise is still recovering from the shooting and has needed follow-up surgery, the latest on April 16 this year, related to the wounds he sustained 10 months ago. He was not present at Wednesday’s practice.

The shooter, James T. Hodgkinson, of Belleville, Illinois. Hodgkinson, who formerly ran a home-inspection business, had been living out of a van in Alexandria for several months before the shooting. Hodgkinson had a history of railing against the Republican Party.

During the assault at the baseball field, he was armed with a 7.62 mm caliber SKS rifle and a 9mm handgun and fired about 60 rounds, according to Tim Slater, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Washington office.

Hodgkinson was fatally shot multiple times by police.

Republican lawmakers returned to the field Wednesday to practice for the annual Congressional Baseball Game.

After a night of heavy rains, the ball field had several large puddles, making it impossible to have batting practice.

Players played catch and coaches hit grounders in the infield.

The charity game is slated for June 14 at Nationals Park.

In light of the shooting, security on Wednesday was tight. In previous years, access to the field wasn’t restricted. This year armed Capitol Police officers were posted at the practice.

“We’re not going to practice here every day, now. Capitol Police have encouraged us to rotate around, so we don’t have an automatic pattern,” Barton said.

“It’s important to be resilient. We can’t let an act of violence define who we are. We’re here to live our lives, to enjoy our time, to make a difference through a charity baseball game,” Alexandria Mayor, Allison Silberberg said in a news conference.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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