Fall Elections Shape Future Rosters

by Nathan L. Gonzales July 1, 2012 · 11:00 AM EDT

Pulled muscles and back injuries are nothing compared to the devastation the fall elections could inflict on the rosters for the 2013 edition of the CQ Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game.

This year could be the final game for more than a dozen Members of Congress who face serious re-election challenges, but November could also produce a batch of future stars, including a potential Republican antidote to Democratic pitching star Rep. Cedric Richmond (La.).

Florida Congressional hopeful Ron DeSantis has played with and against major league talent. In high school, the Republican’s team knocked off current Washington National Rick Ankiel’s top-ranked squad in a playoff game.

DeSantis, who also played in the Little League World Series when he was 12 years old, went on to play four years of baseball at Yale University.

“On the whole, we were not a very good team — in our win-loss record. But as our captain, he was charged with keeping the troops together,” Craig Breslow, a relief pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks, said about his former Yale teammate. Breslow made his first-ever political contribution in March — a $2,500 check for his friend.

DeSantis, 33, is a top contender in a crowded and competitive GOP primary in Florida’s open 4th district. If he prevails, DeSantis will likely be a mainstay in the GOP lineup as long as he wants to be.

The road to Congress is slightly easier for Illinois Republican Jason Plummer. If Democrats knew his potential on the diamond, they might have worked harder to get a better candidate to run against him.

Plummer came to Washington, D.C., earlier this month for candidate training, and a dinner conversation with Reps. Bill Shuster (Pa.) and John Shimkus (Ill.) led to an impromptu tryout at the Republicans’ practice the next morning.

It’s no secret that after bearing much of the pitching load for the Republicans in the post-Steve Largent era, Shimkus and his colleague saw potential in the 30-year-old, 6-foot-8-inch right-hander who played three sports in high school.

On the mound and at the plate, Plummer didn’t disappoint during the scrimmage, and his performance could lead to some political action committee checks from future teammates. “I viewed the practice as a fundraising call,” Plummer said, half-joking.

The bad news for Republicans is that they may have more than Richmond to worry about next year.

As a high school pitcher, Florida Democrat Patrick Murphy was throwing as hard as 90 miles per hour (along with a slider) and on his way to pitch at the University of Miami on a scholarship, but he wasn’t ready to give up his football dreams. During a post-graduate year of high school, he broke his shoulder returning a kickoff in the final game of the season.

Even though he never fully recovered, the 29-year-old Democrat promised to bring a “good bat, fresh legs and a strong arm on the mound” if he defeats Rep. Allen West (R) this fall in one of the most competitive House races in the country.

Other potential players would rely on their youth rather than baseball experience.

Tennessee Congressional hopeful Weston Wamp has been to at least a half-dozen Congressional games as his father, former Rep. Zach Wamp, was a stalwart for the GOP squad, anchoring the middle of the infield and the batting order until he left Congress for a gubernatorial run.

“Dad was a fierce competitor,” Weston said in a recent interview. “He took it so darn seriously.”

Weston Wamp didn’t play organized baseball growing up, but the 25-year-old Republican is confident he “could run circles” around older Members. But first, Wamp must defeat Rep. Chuck Fleischmann in the Aug. 2 GOP primary.

Designated for Assignment?

Fleischmann isn’t the only GOP Member who might be playing in his last game. More than a half-dozen Republicans from last year’s squad are considered electorally vulnerable.

Reps. Robert Dold (Ill.), Joe Walsh (Ill.), Chris Gibson (N.Y.), Bill Johnson (Ohio) and Jeff Denham (Calif.) all face competitive re-election races of varying severity. Third baseman Rep. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Rep. Connie Mack IV (Fla.) are running in competitive Senate races. And left fielder Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.) won’t be coming back after failing to get enough signatures to appear on the primary ballot.

And while Democrats could ride Richmond’s arm for years, the Congressman might not recognize his teammates next summer.

Reps. Tim Bishop (N.Y.), Bill Owens (N.Y.), Ben Chandler (Ky.), Joe Baca (Calif.) and Mark Critz (Pa.) all face serious challengers in the fall. Reps. Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Christopher Murphy (Conn.) are running for open Senate seats, but Murphy is more likely to win.

Democrats already lost first baseman Rep. Jay Inslee (who resigned to focus on his gubernatorial bid), and either William Lacy Clay or Russ Carnahan isn’t coming back — they are facing off in a primary in Missouri.