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'We Will Not Give In To Fear': Congress Is Still Ready To Play Ball

The Congressional Baseball Game is to be played at Nationals Park on Thursday night, just a day after Rep. Steve Scalise was critically injured in a shooting during practice in Virginia.

Although the weather in Washington looks headed toward a near-flawless summer night, an obvious and immovable shadow is being cast over Thursday night's Congressional Baseball Game — a tradition that began more than a century ago.

Rep. Steve Scalise, the third-highest-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, is still in critical condition after undergoing the latest in a series of surgeries Thursday morning as a result of a gunshot wound to his hip. He was one of four wounded by a gunman Wednesday in an attack on a Republican team practice in Virginia. A hospital statement said Scalise was doing better over the previous 24 hours but would be in the hospital for some time.

The FBI says the shooter, 66-year-old James Hodgkinson, was killed by police.

Since the shooting, members of Congress have spoken about a need for unity, at a time when polarization seems to be at an all-time high. This year's baseball game, played at Nationals Park in Southeast Washington, looks to be a place where members can show it.

"The Congressional Baseball Game has never been about Republicans against Democrats," said Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., in an opinion piece he wrote for CNN. "It's about Republicans and Democrats."

Aguilar plays outfield for the Democratic team; before the shooting, Scalise was slated to play second base for the Republicans.

"We will not give in to fear, violence or hate," Aguilar said. "We will play for those affected by these despicable and cowardly actions, to support local charities ... and to remind the American people that this violence will not define or divide us."

Thursday's matchup represents a tiebreaker in the series. Democrats have won seven of the last eight games, bringing the overall series to an even 39-39-1 (the teams played multiple times in some years).

The deciding factor will probably be Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., who may be the best to have ever played in the game.

"I think anybody that ever played baseball, the dream was to play in a major league stadium," Richmond said last year.

The baseball tradition is said to have forged a friendship between Richmond and fellow Louisiana Rep. Scalise.

Tickets to the game are available online and were selling at a rate of 500 per hour on Thursday afternoon, according to Roll Call. Proceeds for the game benefit a number of local charities.

President Trump is not planning to attend the game because of security concerns, the White House said Wednesday.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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