WASHINGTON -- After a two-year losing streak, the congressional women's softball team have finally brought home the trophy.
Staying safely ahead of its competition in the press corps, the underdog team of bipartisan congresswomen won the Congressional Women's Softball Game 10-5 Wednesday evening at Watkins Recreational Center, a few blocks from the Capitol.
The game itself is part of a six-year rivalry between female members of Congress and female reporters, also known as the Bad News Babes. Each year, they put aside political and professional differences to play a competitive game of softball.
The months leading up to the game were filled with early morning practices, Twitter trash talking, reconnaissance missions to scout out the competition and a fantasy softball challenge to keep the fans involved -- on game day, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) was the fantasy challenge's top pick. The congresswomen even created their own fight song to stay pumped up during the final hours before the game.
Yet while the stakes were high -- with the winning team getting a trophy, medals and bragging rights for the next year -- the only real loser is cancer. The money raised from the game is donated to the Young Survival Coalition, a nonprofit organization that provides resources and support for young women diagnosed with breast cancer.
This union stems from event organizer Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's (D-Fla.) own battle with breast cancer in 2007. Cancer-free since 2009, Wasserman Schultz has been determined to raise awareness about the early detection of breast cancer. One of many examples of her efforts to advocate for breast cancer awareness, the annual game has generated more than $500,000 for the YSC in the six years since its inception. This year alone, the game raised more than $150,000 from corporate sponsors and fans alike.
— Kate Houghton (@Houghton_Kate) June 18, 2014
This year's game also marked the return to the field of a veteran player. Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who played in the 2009 game, threw the first pitch. She resigned from Congress in 2012 after being shot in the head and critically wounded the year before. In an article published by CNN before the game, Giffords said she hoped that her first pitch would set the right tone for the congressional team so they could finally beat the press.
Despite the camaraderie of the game, though, both sides made clear that this wasn't some elementary school field day (despite being held in an elementary school field). There could be only one winner. The Bad News Babes were the favorite to win, having taken home the trophy in three of the last four games. But the congresswomen were determined to make a comeback, and using Giffords' return to the field as inspiration, they were able to pull off the win.
"We certainly didn't expect [to win]," said Gillibrand, team captain for the congresswomen, as well as team MVP. "I feel like we played our best because Gabby threw out our first pitch. She not only inspires me every day, but she inspires all of us."
The congressional team pulled ahead early in the game, with their four runs in the third inning bringing the game to 5-1. It was just enough to give the politicians the edge they needed, and the journalists were never able to recover. They had a few strong hits from Elise Foley of The Huffington Post and Brianna Keilar of CNN in the top of the fourth, bringing the score to 5-4, but the lawmakers pulled ahead again, with four more runs before the fourth inning was out.
The Bad News Babes' hopes for a comeback were dashed when the congresswomen scored once more in the fifth. The journalists struggled to get runners on base, and although they had another run in the fifth, it wasn't enough to mount the comeback they needed. Without a single run by either team in the sixth inning, the politicians won the game 10-5.
"Sometimes you just encounter a team that wants it more," said Roll Call's Abby Livingston, who was also the Bad News Babes MVP. "They just wanted it more this year. You can try to stop it, but they were out there, they gave their blood, sweat and tears, and you just have to congratulate them for it."
As much as both teams wanted to win, though, the players were able to keep it in perspective -- the game is about beating cancer, and with an event that raised money and awareness, each team can claim victory.