A Congressional Candidate Plays Softball in an Ad, and I Have Lots of Questions

by Nathan L. Gonzales August 30, 2018 · 12:06 PM EDT

When I saw Ohio Democrat Aftab Pureval playing softball in a campaign ad, I felt like my years of election analysis and beer-league softball were finally coming together.

Pureval, the Hamilton County clerk of courts, is challenging Republican Rep. Steve Chabot in Ohio’s 1st District. He’s running a competitive race (which we’ve rated Leans Republican) and outraised the congressman through June 30 ($1.6 million to $959,000).

His recent 30-second television ad, “Slugger,” features the 35-year-old candidate playing softball and making his pitch to voters. It’s an off-beat ad probably meant to show a contrast with the 65-year-old incumbent.

But I have a lot of questions.

Why is he wearing jeans?
Pureval should know that softball is best played in tattered sweatpants or shorts; the latter helps facilitate a vicious burn from unnecessary sliding. Usually when someone shows up in jeans to a softball game, it’s because they’ve never played. Everyone else on his team seems to have gotten the memo.

Where is this field?
Recreational softball on a field with a scoreboard, grandstands, and a proper infield is a luxury. Of course, there are American flags perfectly affixed to the chain-link fence and brick backstop. The dimensions are also incredibly short. The hill in left field might be 150 feet away. And why are the bases flat on an otherwise normal field? The league is sophisticated enough to have an umpire, so real bases shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

Who is watching this game?
There are at least 50 people in crowd, and that’s just in the stands above one dugout. Is this a championship game? That could explain the flags. In my experience, softball spectators are limited to an occasional supportive/sympathetic spouse, players from other teams who play before or after this game, and maybe a couple of teenagers trying to steal a wallet while you’re playing the field.

Why are there no names on the jerseys?
Whether it’s Category 5, the EditOrioles, or Rocko’s Tire Emporium, coming up with a good team name is much of the fun of softball. These generic jerseys aren’t doing anything for morale. Pureval’s team could have at least worn campaign shirts and had the other team wear Chabot shirts. I feel like this was really a missed opportunity.

Is this a wood bat league?
Pureval takes his cut with a wood bat, but one of his teammates near the dugout appears to have an aluminum bat. (Maybe even a fungo?) I’d guess very few coed softball leagues in the country use wood bats. But it could be that the candidate is such a good player that he’s handicapping himself by offering to use wood to equalize the playing field.

Why isn’t Pureval running?
I know he’s running for Congress, but why not run immediately after hitting the ball? Based on the trajectory of his swing and exit velocity, I don’t think it was a no-doubt home run (in spite of the field’s small dimensions). The lack of hustle is disconcerting.

Where did the ball go?
Even if it didn’t clear the berm in left field or the trees and apartment building in center, I’m not surprised that Pureval hit an inside-the-park home run since it doesn’t appear that any of the defenders moved. All of the fielders are just standing in their positions. There’s not even evidence that they tried to retrieve the ball and throw him out at home.

Who is coaching the other team?
Lining up women to play third base and left field is a bold move in a coed league that plays seven men and three women at a time. The lack of defensive hustle on Pureval’s hit is a coaching issue and having the third baseman line up directly on the foul line is a curious managerial decision as well.

But if the gray team wants to handicap itself with poor strategy (or Chabot doesn’t run a robust campaign), don’t blame Pureval for taking advantage.